Trip to Japan – Nikka ‘Yoichi’ 10 year 45%

Next up in our Whisky Ladies evening was a ‘quick trip to Japan!‘ (Pollywood)

Nikka 'Yoichi' 10 year (Whisky Lady)

Nikka ‘Yoichi’ 10 year (Whisky Lady)

Here’s what we found:

  • Nose – Quite masculine at first, though fruity especially a strong apple cinnamon, like a mid-autumn cider. As it opened, became as American as apple pie… naturally with caramel and vanilla ice cream!
  • Taste – Smooth, well-rounded, unmistakably an autumn dram, juniper, pine, apple, a drizzle of honey, a cognac-like quality
  • Finish – Just a hint of spice at the end but overall smooooooth beyond belief! As it aired, even more character emerged.

We concluded this was like autumn in Vancouver… The kind of crisp fall day where you could go for a brisk hike in a tall deep forest then come back and reward yourself with a steaming hot, fresh-from-the-oven fruit pie!

Here’s what the Nikka folks say:

This 10 year old bottling unmistakably carries the Yoichi pedigree, which propelled Japanese whisky to international recognition. Peat notes surround a core of ripe fruit aromas, while a rich texture and underlying power make this the most masculine of Japanese single malts.

By now, most would be familiar with Japan’s popularity on the global whisky scene. Nikka‘s Yoichi distillery in Hokkaido was founded by Masataka Taketsuru in 1934.

The folks over at Nikka describe their distillery as one which :

…produces rich, peaty and masculine malt. The whisky gets its distinct aroma and body from direct heating distillation, in which the pot stills are heated with finely powdered natural coal–the traditional method that is hardly ever used today, even in Scotland.

The adherence to Scottish whisky making traditions is characteristic of the vision set by Taketsuru-San. Credited as the founder of Japanese whisky, Taketsuru studied chemistry and apprenticed at Hazelburn distillery in Scotland before bringing his love of whisky and bonnie Scottish wife – Jessie Roberta “Rita” Cowan – home to Japan in 1920. He built Suntory’s Yamasaki distillery, nurturing its development for a decade before venturing on to found the Nikka brand.

As for our inaugural Whisky Ladies evening?

One remarked it was “A trip around the world and a relationship all in one night!”

Other whiskies sampled during our rollicking session included:

Nikka 'Yoichi' 10 year (Table For One)

Nikka ‘Yoichi’ 10 year (Table For One)

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Nikka’s Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 Year 43%

While more accessible than the others, I couldn’t resist picking up Nikka’s Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 year – largely as it came conveniently in a 180ml bottle! Nikka has quite smartly released a series of smaller bottles so us mere mortals without scads of money do not miss somewhat affordable sampling portions.

Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 year is a blend of the two Nikka single malts described as combining

“… the strong character of Yoichi with the elegance and precision of Miyagikyo. Both masculine and feminine, traditional and innovative, this outstanding pure malt whisky is a worthy tribute to Masataka Taketsuru, the father of Japanese whisky and founder of Nikka.”

It was voted the world’s best blended malt whisky in 2012 in 2014.

Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2004 described it as

“Not a whisky for the squeamish. This is big stuff, about as big as it gets without peat or rye. No bar shelf or whisky club should be without one.”

So yes, I admit I was influenced in the purchasing decision. The real test, as always, comes when sampling ‘blind’.

And what did our group discover? Let’s just say we were reminded of a few important lessons…

180ml of Nikka's Taketsuru Pure All Malt 17 (Whisky Lady)

Nikka’s Taketsuru Pure All Malt 17  180 ml (Whisky Lady)

First impression:
  • Colour – Amber
  • Nose – Musk like spicy sweat after a good work-out, lemon lime, tamarind, smoke
  • Taste – So dry it makes one want to drink water, not so much character… bit disappointing as missing elements noted in the nose
  • Finish – Limited – sweetness then stops
  • One member simply could not believe this was the same Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 year that is one of his favourites?!
  • We seemed to have missed many of what this particular whisky is known for! How….?
Nikka's Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 (Whisky Lady)

Nikka’s Taketsuru Pure Malt 17 (Whisky Lady)

2nd impression:
So we gave it more time to breathe, took a bit of a break and cleared our palates more fully with cucumber, unsalted bread sticks and water. Then tried again… Good thing we did!
  • Nose – Subtle tobacco smoke started to curl out, dried fruits, sweet… a mix of bright fruity notes of mostly apricot combined with a more masculine musk
  • Taste – Complex, oaky, oily, hint of chocolate, beautiful dance between dried fruits and roasted nuts
  • Finish – Impossible! It went from almost no finish to a delightful medium-long finish with impish spice and oak?!
What we learned is:
  • Breathe – Absolutely needs time to ‘breathe’… This was freshly opened and immediately poured. Excited by the earlier whiskies, we rushed into this one…
  • Order – Tasting order can hugely influence! Should have either tried it 2nd (which a latecomer experienced and loved) or taken a much longer break between tastings to clear our palate and minds of the Chichibu. Funny thing is I originally planned to have it 2nd then last-minute switched largely due to the Jim Murray review (last time I will let him influence!).
  • Revisit – Very important to set it aside and revisit after time – it was like two different whiskies!

Overall impression:

  • Complex and well worth savouring…
  • Please oh please I beg you, give it time to open up with air for a half hour or so… Do not rush!!

We sampled this together with Suntory’s Chita Single Grain Whisky 12 YearIchiro’s Malt Chichibu 2009 French Oak Cask and Ichiro’s Malt Houou-uhi as part of a Japanese themed evening in February 2015.

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