Nikka Pure Malt Black ‘Smoky and Mellow’ (43%, OB, 50 cl, 08J12C)

Well yes, why not have a go at another Japanese Whisky. This time a true Pure Malt or Blended Malt. It is not very hard to guess from which distilleries the Whiskies originate that make up this Blended Malt. Yes you’ve guessed it: Yoichi (for the peat) and Miyagikyo (for the fruit). Black is one out of a series of three. The other two are Red (predominantly Miyagikyo, Rounded and Smooth) and White (predominantly Yoichi, Smoky and Peaty). Red is supposed to be blended with Malt Whisky from Scotland, as White is supposed to be blended with peated Whisky from Islay.

Nikka Pure Malt BlackColor: Light orange gold

Nose: Lots of vanilla, smoke from burning of branches with leaves and a lot of moisture. Also some red fruits. Fat peat and custard. Excellent combination. Children’s clay, strong and spicy wood. When given the time to breathe the nose stabilizes. Seems like young Whisky to me.

Taste: Vanilla with a peppery attack, transforming into a Whisky from a Cream Sherry cask. Hard fruity candy. Full, likeable and strong flavor for instant gratification. Actually not very refined. Not bad, but like the Akashi reviewed earlier, the finish is not the strongest point of this Japanese Whisky. Some kind of peppery heat (smoke) stays on the roof of my mouth, but at the same time you have a pretty short finish down my throat. Curious. There is a fruity sugar-water coating that stays behind in the mouth. Needs air to develop.

It seems to me this product is made with a lot of young Whisky from first fill casks. First refills are needed for longer maturation to make a better Whisky. Interesting. As I said before. Whisky not for analyzing and to fuss over. Just sit back and enjoy. It will grow on you. Probably also good Whisky for cocktails!

Points: 82

Japanese Whisky Week – Day 6: Miyagikyo 1989/2006 (58%, Nikka, C# 108645, Warehouse 24)

On the third day of the Japanese Whisky Week, I tried a fairly standard Miyagikyo 15yo at the reasonable strength of 45% ABV. That one turned out to be very good. Today we’ll have another look at this distillery, but this time a single cask at the more samurai strength of 58% ABV. As I said before, Miyagikyo is one of my favorites from Japan, ánd I’ve stated before that Japanese whiskies need to be cask strength to show their…ehhh strength. So here we go!

Color: Copper

Nose: Musty sherry. Malty, muddy and sweaty. Smells a bit like your local ditch on a good day. So it doesn’t stink, but smells… organic. Mushrooms. Dry. Sea spray freshness and something burnt. Probably from a Fino Sherry cask. The nose isn’t typical Miyagikyo.

Taste: Strong. Yellow jam with apricots. Chewy. Lots of wood spice. It’s a whisky that wants to be sweet, but isn’t. It’s half sweet, half dry. Sherried. Not completely a Miyagikyo profile but very nice! Clay. Slight imbalance in the finish, due to the sour wood. It’s not very woody, but still it dominates the finish.

Yes these bottles come in a blank and ugly box. Just think the box protects the bottle and the whisky from scratches and light. The good stuff is in the bottle and luckily is not in the packaging. Still I like the smoke glass bottle Nikka also uses for Ben Nevis Whiskies.

I have a feeling this one doesn’t like to breathe too much. Ok, bad example, or there goes a prejudice? It’s Miyagikyo and it’s cask strength, still it scores the same as reduced and standard or even pure malts… We’ll see what happens with the next one…

Points: 87 (yes again 87).

Japanese Whisky Week – Day 3: Miyagikyo 15yo (45%, Nikka)

Next up in our Japanese Whisky Week is one of the two components of the previously reviewed Taketsuru Pure malts. Miyagikyo. Miyagikyo was built by Masataka Taketsuru in 1969. Miyagikyo is also known as the Sendai Distillery and is located in northern Honshu. Quite close to the Fukushima nuclear power plant (30 minutes by car).

Equipped with only one pair of stills in 1969, a second and third pair were installed just six years later. All stills are steam-heated. Miyagikyo also has Coffee stills that were moved here from Nishinomiya distillery in 1999. With these stills Nikka Coffee Malt is made. The coffee malt is made with 100% malted barley.

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Fat, muddy, spicier than Taketsuru. Very nice smoke. Meatier too. Almonds, vanilla ice cream, fern and sherry. Perfumy wood. Balanced and clean. Elegant with the spice coming late. Complex and balanced. There’s more to it…

Taste: Thick. Sweet clay. Sherry and it has substance. Vanilla ice cream. Spicy wood. It’s quite woody. Green, cardboardy but still great altogether. (I have to say the nose was slightly better).

I’m a big fan of Miyagikyo. Every time I taste one of its expressions it always ticks all of my boxes. It just clicks with me. Even this ‘standard’, large batch and reduced whisky. This is great stuff! Even though I scored this the same as Taketsuru 21yo. Both do deserve the same score. But if asked to choose, I would choose this. It has just two more points in ABV, and it shows (a little), but I still feel that Japanese whiskies are at their best at cask strength. We should find out if that’s true…

Points: 87

Japanese Whisky Week – Day 2: Taketsuru 21yo (43%, Nikka)

Moving on into day two of this Japanese Whisky Week. The next one might not come as a complete surprise, because this time we’ll have a look at the elderly brother of Taketsuru 17yo, namely Taketsuru 21yo. Did they make this just an older version of the 17yo or did they do a completely different profile for this one? If you want to warm up to Taketsuru 21yo, please have a look at the review of Taketsuru 17yo.

Color: Full gold, almost copper.

Nose: Ahhh, this is more. Clay and musty, wow! Gravy laden with almonds. Dirty and fruity. Not überfruity but there are some hints of yellow and red fruits in here. Also some peat (Yoichi) and oak. More sherry casks I would guess. Nice!

Taste: Sweet with sherry. Slightly winy even, yet warming. Cannabis and clay. Gravy. Again this one is too low in ABV. Still I’m having a lot of fun with this one. Malty, honest and it has a bit of a beer like finish.

It’s slightly different, but easily from the same family. It just has more of everything and for me a shift into more clay like sherried malt. For me a no brainer if you have to choose between the 17yo and the 21yo. This has more character to it. Just beware, this one suffers from even more batch variation than it’s 17yo brother.

Points: 87

Japanese Whisky Week – Day 1: Taketsuru 17yo (43%, Nikka)

In june I did my first ‘week’, called the Bourbon Week. Lot’s of Bourbons yes, but not all were actually Bourbons. I threw in the odd Rye as well. After the success of that week, and I have to admit, the fun I had by doing such a ‘week’, I thought it was time to do another week. So here is the first day of the Japanese Whisky Week! Again I’ll try to review seven Whiskies in seven days, and this time they are all from Japan. I thought that Japan was untill now a bit underexposed on Master Quill’s pages having reviewed none! But that’s about to change…

In 1918 one Masataka Taketsuru went to Scotland to learn the whisky trade at Longmorn, Ben Nevis and Hazelburn distilleries. During this time he met his soon to be wife Rita, and both returned to Japan. There Taketsuru founded Nikka with the building of Yoichi Distillery on Hokkaido Island in 1934.

Yoichi was built on the north island of Hokkaido considered by Taketsuru to be close to the natural environment of Scotland. Also copied was the way of distilling, two times in copper pot stills. In contrast to their Scottish counterparts is the use of new wood and slow-growing Japanese oak.

A lot of years later the Nikka company named a small series of pure malts after it’s founder. The series comprises of a 12yo, a 17yo and a 21yo. All Pure Malts are made up of only two components. Yoichi and Miyagikyo. The latter was founded in 1969 in Honshu. Both singles are great, so this Taketsuru should be no lemon.

Color: Full Gold (slightly pink).

Nose: Musty gravy. Nice slightly burnt wood. Sweetish fruits with pineapple. Sweat ánd men’s cologne. Powdery, almost like sawdust. Greenish. It smells a bit like those hard candies made out of fruity powder pressed into little pills. Sometimes a whiff of soap. All in all, very nice.

Taste: Spicy esters. Toast and a hint of tar. Tastes a bit dirty actually. Grainy with vanilla ice cream. Reminds me a bit of vodka. Greenish hints here too. Definitively not as sweet as the nose predicted. Half long sour wood finish which is a bit unbalanced. The toast and tar stay on for the, therefore bitter, finish. Alas too low in ABV.

Although this is quite a nice Pure Malt, for the money you can get a Yoichi or a Miyagikyo, that are (marginally) better. Still I do like this Taketsuru, and combining the two is an experience of its own. Just beware, because there is talk about batch variations.

Points: 85