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.