By Kurt Mailand
Nikka is one of Japan’s premier whiskey distillers, with a much larger profile internationally than is apparent from a purely American perspective. This is because, until recently, Nikka only released a small amount of their full range here in the States. Late last year, this changed with the release of four new spirits in the U.S. market. I’ve already reviewed one of these, the Nikka Coffey Grain, and now I want to discuss their 21 Year Old Taketsuru Pure Malt Whisky.
This release should not be new to our international readers. In fact, it won the World Whisky Award (WWA) for “World’s Best Blended Malt” 4 times between 2007 and 2011, so its quality has been appreciated and acknowledged around the world. It just hasn’t been available Stateside, until now.
As a bit of clarification, the Nikka 21 YO is a vatted malt, a blend of malt whiskey from different distilleries, and in the Japanese case, malt whiskeys of markedly different styles from the same distillery. No grain whiskey is involved. Vatted malts are sometimes also called “pure malts,” hence the appearance of that term in the title.
This is one of a line of vatted malt whiskeys named for Masataka Taketsuru, a founding father of Japanese whiskey-making, and is bottled at 43% abv.
Nose – Rich malt with a hint of oak, light ginger notes, and what seems like a bit of tiramisu
Color – Caramel
Taste – Malt, with hints of vanilla, fruit, and spices with hints of leather and tobacco as you roll to the finish
With water, the spice notes get a little more aggressive, the fruit comes more to the fore, the malt feels a little fuller somehow. Hold it in your mouth and the dessert notes of the nose reappear. The mouthfeel is soft, a little dry and gets drier with the addition of water. Light burn but smooth all the way through
Finish – Long mellow lingering burn. Coats your tongue for a good bit after you’ve finished drinking.
It’s a pleasure to drink and a great dram to come home to. But it doesn’t come cheap – quality rarely does. It averages around $165 US but you may find it a bit cheaper if you hunt around a bit.
In addition to the aforementioned World Whisky Awards, Nikka Taketsuru 21 Year Old also won gold at the International Spirits Competition in 2012, 2010, 2009, and 2008.