Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt Review

Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt156

43% abv

Score:  88/100


A Japanese blended malt from Nikka.  Non age-stated, but let’s assume a middling youth.  Asian malts mature a little bit differently from their Scottish brethren in most cases, so using the same metrics is misleading.  What I can say, though, is that this one is neither underdeveloped, nor is it gracefully waltzing up into its golden years (that apex of maturity we ache for in the whisky world).

Initial rumblings on this one pegged it as a wonder malt of sorts.  Something that was unparalleled in its price bracket in terms of relative quality and depth of pseudo-tropicalia.  I kinda see it, yeah.  Word of mouth from a few trusted sources was enough to get our local club – The Dram Initiative – to spring blindly for a couple bottles to shelve for a future Japanese whisky night.  It now seems that was a solid investment.  The bottle you see in the photo above was purchased on behalf of another l’il club here in town, called Liquorature for an event held a few months back.  The seven or eight gents that gathered over good reads and good malts that night spanked the hell out of it, I should note.  Fortunately there were a few drops left over for a couple of revisits and some tasting notes.

Again…we decry the lack of vintage on the label – in this day and age there is no excuse for clandestine policies regarding age – but concede a well-executed drink.  Oh, and a hell of a price for a Japanese whisky in this era of unrestrained price gouging.

Nose:  Pear, orange and a touch of that syrupy fruit cocktail mix from the can.  Vaguely floral too.   Like a good young Speysider with a more exotic spice bouquet.  White chocolate and vanilla cake.  Kinda reminds of ice cream…or custard.  Not a complex malt, but very well-composed and infinitely drinkable.

Palate:  Nice arrival that immediately shifts gears into darker vanilla and tannic notes.  Plum skins.  Is that peat?  Really?  The fruits that ebb and flow here do border on tropical (but the whisky is just too young for it to truly plunge into tropical territory), with those semi-bitter, but also incredibly sweet, colorful explosions (too esoteric?).  Think of a very muted tropical juice blend poured over angel food cake.  Leaves smoked peaches and oak on the back end.  Neat.

Thoughts:  An incredibly well made dram, and for a ridiculously fair price considering the mark-up on Japanese whisky nowadays.  $60 give or take.  One final note…the nose does somewhat outshine the palate.


 – Images & Words:  Curt

18 thoughts on “Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt Review

  1. Cameron

    The nose really surprised and impressed me – big time tropical fruit and candy! Very enjoyable, if not complex, as you say. The palate was much more muted, although pleasant and easily drinkable. I believe it was closer to $90 at the nut-SAQ so I passed on it.

    1. Ed

      Closest you will get to yamazaki 18, period.

      In ny, yama 18 is 500, Nikka blend is 70.

      For 300 I’d grab the yama. If money is tight, this nikka is outstanding.

    1. ATW Post author

      Nice try.

      I don’t recommend anyone buy anything. That’s not what I do. What you do with your money is up to you.

      I definitely don’t go out of my way to recommend NAS, as you know. 😉

      1. bob


        see the end of the Mac CS review:

        This Macallan, I believe, was bottled for Canada (or maybe North America…can’t remember exactly what I had heard), and sadly is to become obsolete if rumours are to be believed. Snatch up a bottle or three while you can.

        what was that about not recommending anyone buy anything? Or NAS?

        1. Skeptic

          Hmm, Bob, are you the same guy that derailed that young Liberal Candidate in Canada by dredging up her facebook or twitter past from when she was a teenager? No life maybe?

          Yes, he is recommending you buy it, and yes, it is NAS, but that was 2012. And he’s not running for office. It’s his own site, for goodness sakes!


          Still, I have to say, the review makes me want to taste this whisky, and if it were only $60 that would be one I might go after. So the effect of your review, regardless of intent, is to spur interest in this NAS expression in a positive way.

          1. ATW Post author

            Yep. Three and a half years ago. When NAS was but a fraction of the plague it is now. At a time when we saw it as a gimmick (and a shameful one at that), but one no more malignant than chill-filtration, low bottling strengths or E150A. Something to debate, fume about a little and get on with the next dram.

            Things have changed a little over those intervening years, wouldn’t you say, Bob? 😉

            Just to be clear…at this point in time the Macallan Stripper series did not exist (1824s…Gold, Amber, Sienna, Ruby)…the bulk of the range was age-stated…the CS was an anomaly…and the NAS stuff (Whisky Maker’s Edition, 1851, etc) was largely relegated to Travel Retail and not polluting our local shelves.

            “Come gather ’round people, wherever you roam…”


          2. ATW Post author

            Your last point is valid, Skeptic. I don’t discount that effect. Unfortunately I either call ’em as I see ’em (and maintain my integrity) or bullshit you (which I won’t do), or…I boycott reviewing them and these debates dry up, drawing less attention to the argument, as was already discussed here earlier today and yesterday.

            There’s no perfect solution. My heart and explicit commentary still unequivocally says ‘fuck you, NAS’.

          3. bob

            Just stirring up the pot a little. no harm intended. But if you are going to pull no punches, some of that may turn around on you…

          4. Jeff

            I don’t contest anyone’s right to recommend what they like but, as I tried to point out some time ago, this issue was inevitably going to come up with NAS reviews: one can’t review, and raise the profile of, NAS bottles without implying that quality (good or bad) ultimately trumps any personal objections to the marketing, as the products, after all, ARE being reviewed DESPITE being NAS. Promotion of these products is the ultimate, if not the intended, net result. The explicit message (Fuck you, NAS) is at odds with the implicit message (NAS products should not be discounted/opposed on the basis of the marketing alone; if NAS is a big deal, it’s not THAT big of a deal).

            If all of this is being done as some type of acknowledgment of “there are some good ones” in the interests of fairness, something that has to be acknowledged even more loudly in the interests of accuracy is that, again, there’s no possible link between quality and withholding product information. It’s the industry’s (sometime) claim that taking age statements off somehow makes whisky more experimental/better/exciting/whatever and it’s complete bullshit, as shown by all the people who can state, but not defend, the position. Put an age statement on any bottle and it’s the same whisky – the difference is that the influence of age isn’t being selectively and nonsensically denied, and people have some idea what they’re buying, which should be their universal right at point of purchase.

            When Curt first discontinued NAS reviews, he said he changed tacks from reviewing them for the following reason:

            “It was only because I was trying to present all sides of the story, and give consumers as much information as possible in making their whisky buying decisions. The thing is…that’s wrong. I was wrong. I don’t want to help consumers support NAS whisky. It’s hurting all of us. And things are actually getting worse.”

            I agreed with that position, still agree with agree with it, and things are, if anything, worse now than when he said it – and I think we presently agree on that as well. As for keeping the debate alive, I don’t really see much left to debate, but I agree with the point in the sense of keeping the issue itself front and center, as it should be, as NAS is not only the single largest trend in whisky, but a direct attack upon the interests of both consumers and common sense.

          5. ATW Post author

            No concerns on stirring the pot, Bob. That’s what we do ’round here. And don’t worry…I’ve taken my fair share of punches. In ways most people on here don’t even realize. The last year and a half have been quite an uphill battle. Such is. When you buck the tide and say the things that some don’t want said you simply have to expect consequences. I deal with it.

            Your referencing that old post does bring up a thought though. One I’ve articulated many times here. The idea of being kept honest. I try to be completely transparent here. I don’t censor things…I disclose sources…I admit shortcomings…correct past missteps when I see them, etc. I think it’s incredibly valuable if others catch inconsistencies that they let me know.

            I think in this case it is not an inconsistency, but a sea change in whisky over the years and an adaptive approach to addressing it. Maybe that’s just me.

            Either way…cheers!

          6. ATW Post author

            And let’s dig into what Jeff said a little bit too. He and I feel very much alike on these matters, but I’m moving forward with a different weapon in hand right now than the one he approves of (for lack of a better way to put it). That’s all incidental though. What I want to draw attention to is the message that he pushes more now than ever (or seems to be the prime directive anyway). And that is – in simplest terms – the articulation that quality has absolutely nothing to do with the whole NAS discussion. Period. As soon as anyone brings up an argument that begins with ‘but **** is a good whisky and it is NAS’ they are having an entirely separate conversation. Take a minute to digest that. No whisky is made better or worse for obscuring its age.

  2. Jason

    Not exactly sure what you mean by “middling youth” but this was 12 year old before it recently became NAS. I would have to assume that it is 12 years or a little younger to keep a similar profile or they are mixing in younger whiskey with the 12 y/o.

    I have tried the NAS and was impressed.

    I have an age stated that I have not yet opened.

    1. Jeff

      Whether the stock shortage is real or not (and it could very well could be), it doesn’t make age magically irrelevant to the whisky that Nikka produces.

      P.S.: LOVE the Planet Smashers (artist of the day); every time I read Dr. Nick Morgan spout some nonsense about age or how industry problems need to trump consumer interests, I play

      1. ATW Post author

        Nice. Montreal boys, I believe, aye? An Art History prof of mine got me into them years ago when I was in University out in BC. Great band.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s