Whisky Showdown! Yamazaki 12 vs. Nikka Taketsuru 12

Ever had choose between two Japanese whiskies and couldn’t decide? Well today is your lucky day if your alternatives were the Yamazaki 12 or the Nikka Taketsuru 12! I’ll be putting these two whiskies to a head to head taste test so that you never have to face such a dilemma again!

The Yamazaki is bottled at 43% abv and is a single malt whereas the Taketsuru is a blend bottled at 40% abv. Both are aged at least 12 years prior to bottling at their respective locations. The Yamazaki is usually about $10 to $20 less expensive around these parts.

In appearance, the Yamazaki is lighter gold than the Taketsuru which tends more towards amber.

The nose on the Yamazaki is sweeter, with honey and melon contrasting against the Taketsuru’s deeper notes of lemon and aging apple. When considering these two back to back, I notice more oak and some smoke on the nose of the Taketsuru, something that I did not notice during my initial review.

The palate of the Yamazaki is juicy, with an explosion of pineapple quickly overwhelming the sense and adding honey and vanilla to the experience. Compared to the Taketsuru’s oak permeated mix of apple and cinnamon, the former is a party in my mouth. However, the Taketsuru gives off a more mature impression, in no small part due to the unmistakable presence of oak and a hint of smoke. Once again, I note that I didn’t tune in to just how much oak was present in the Taketsuru during my initial tasting and I missed the boat on the smoke altogether.

The Yamazaki 12 finishes nicely, with fruits continuing into the finish. Pineapple is still strong and the finish lasts a decent length, though I wouldn’t call it long. The Nikka Taketsuru 12 is sweet on the finish but not quite as much as the Yamazaki. The Taketsuru seals the deal with more oak and smoke. Both are quite satisfying.

Overall, these are two distinct whiskies and I am surprised at how much they contrast. In fact, I believe the Taketsuru would be a more interesting candidate against a Macallan 12 due to the oak and smoke. Perhaps Takesturu was attempting to emulate the classic elements of a Macallan whereas Yamazaki was aiming at creating something a bit more uniquely Japanese. I will give my vote to the Yamazaki for creating something a bit different. Of course, if your preference is for something more oaky, smokey, and subdued, then you will no doubt disagree. The pineapple in the Yamazaki is enjoyable, refreshing, and distinct from most whiskies I have tried to date. I will keep my eyes open for more expressions from these two distilleries as they consistently win international whisky awards, outranking even some of the best Scotch whiskies.

Nikka Taketsuru 12

I finally get to try another Japanese whisky. There is very little selection in these parts and a recent trip to New Hampshire yielded this bottle of Nikka Taketsuru 12. Nikka produces a range of blended malts at 12, 17, and 21 years. The blend is made up of whiskies from the company’s two sites, bottled at 40% abv, and called a “pure malt” by the company. The Taketsuru name comes from the “father of Japanese whisky”, Masataka Teketsuru who was the first Japanese to learn whisky-making in Scotland and bring the knowledge back with him to Japan. Taketsuru built distilleries in two locations, Yoichi and Miyagikyo, due to the proximity to resources required for making great whisky.

A wonderful amber coloured spirit is the result of minimum 12 years in oak casks. The legs run thin but slow in the glass.

The nose is strong and the first smell leaves me with just vanilla and apple. Despite the lower alcohol concentration, the whisky gives off a strong alcohol burn on the nose and I need a bit of time to adjust. A second whiff and I get some more aromas, caramel in particular along with traces of honey, the kind that comes on a comb and not in a jar. A third whiff now that my nose is fully accustomed to the strong perfume of this promising spirit produces lemon. A wonderful experience on the nose alone.

The palate is soft and sweet. The taste of apple and cinnamon mix pleasantly with almond and oak. I note some grain in the texture.

The finish is medium length and leaves oak, almond, a bit of smoke, and hints of spice.

Adding a few drops of water brings a more powerful bouquet on the nose, adding some flowery notes. The palate benefits from more than a hint of lemon and caramel. The finish remains mostly the same, but I may be catching apple now and even the slightest hint of peat.

Overall, this is a smooth whisky, full-bodied, and quite complex for a 12-year-old blend. At US $50 for a bottle in New Hampshire, it’s reasonably priced. However, I have seen it at more than C $85 at the SAQ in Quebec, which makes it egregiously overpriced and to be avoided unless a promotion comes along. The LCBO in Ontario sells it for about $70, which is just about the limit of what I would be willing to spend as there are some fine makes at those price points. The Taketsuru 12 makes for a nice dram, but I am eager to taste it against a personal favourite, the Yamazaki 12 before concluding on its merits as a fine whisky, let alone a prime example of Japanese makes.


Nikka Taketsuru 12

Whisky Showdown! Macallan Select Oak vs. Macallan Cask Strength

A hot summer’s day is not usually a time I steal away to sip my favourite whiskies, but the cooling effect of the light rain falling as I sit under the eaves on the deck has motivated me to try a couple of Macallan products head to head. This evening’s pugilists are none other than the Macallan Select Oak from Macallan’s 1824 series and the Macallan Cask Strength, reviewed in this pages not too long ago. My review of these two Macallans should take place with the usual disclaimer that water was added to the 60% abv Macallan Cask Strength to reduce the alcohol proportion, though only a drop or two was added to the travel retail exclusive Select Oak.

The colour on the Select Oak is more pale than the deep shade of the Cask Strength. The elegance of the gold colour on the Select Oak is contrasted with the bold if not aggressive amber of the Cask Strength.

The softer nose on the Select Oak asks for recognition of its light fruits, honey, and gentle cinnamon and spice. The nose on the Cask Strength calls to attention a bold statement of oak, strong fruits, including orange, chocolate, and caramel. No nonsense on the Cask Strength, this is a whisky that is looking for trouble, and in my case has found it!

The palate on the Select Oak, with its grainy texture and butty core, requests notice of sweet fruits and cinnamon. The Select Oak demands immediate notice of its oak, apple, fruit, honey, noix de grenoble, caramel, cinnamon swirls, and strength. This Cask Strength is a heavyweight contender and is not shy about its intentions.

The finish on both are long, smooth, and flattering. The Select Oak ends as it started, softer than the Cask Strength and fading into memory of sweet fruits. The Cask Strength is more durable, keeping up the fight with spice, orange, and oak.

Overall, the winner is the Cask Strength. Though price points are higher on the Cask Strength, the whisky is fuller, more complete, complex, and flexible.


Aberlour 10

Vigilant readers, if any, will recall that I reviewed Aberlour’s exceptional 16-year-old whisky a while ago. Today, I go back to basics and try Aberlour’s 10-year-old expression for the first time. This beautiful, warm summer’s day in Montreal provides the backdrop for a relaxing moment spent tasting whisky on the deck with few other concerns occupying my thoughts.

Aberlour is an interesting Speyside distillery producing a narrow variety of whiskies which are especially popular in France. The distillery has been around for nearly 200 years in various forms, rebuilt due to fire and changing hands over the years. Quality expressions are a hallmark of this distillery whose name is Gaelic for “mouth of the chattering burn”. The Aberlour 10 is easily differentiated from its cousins as it is bottled in a tall bottle whereas the other expressions are bottled in shorter, wider bottles.

Th Aberlour 10 is bottled at 40% abv and is aged in ex-sherry and ex-bourbon oak casks.

The colour is a warm amber giving off thin, quick-running legs when swirled.

The nose is bold, with dried fruit being the first discernible scent. Some oak comes through and stays in the nose.

The palate starts with apple juice then confirms soft caramel. It tastes young, but vibrant. Sweet spice round off the profile.

The finish is short. Vanilla, oak, spice, some soft traces of nut, and light herbs cram into a small space.

Adding a bit of water opens up the nose considerably. The palate and finish do not appear to be much affected however.

Overall, this is a better whisky than I expected given its age. Easy to drink, it makes a wonderful every day dram and is good for initiation to whisky. I look forward to comparing this to its older siblings in future comparisons and seeing how the additional years in the casks affect the outcome. Available at the SAQ in Quebec for just short of $47, in Ontario the LCBO carries it for $50. I picked it up during a promotional event for about $40 at the SAQ.


Aberlour 10