This one’s big in Japan. The Nikka Taketsuru 21 Year Old won the World’s Best Blended Malt Whisky at the 2010 World Whiskies Awards, as well as the Best Non-Scotch Blended Malt 21 years and over in 2012. So I was expecting good things from it. For those of you unfamiliar with the delights of Japanese whisky, Nikka is a massive business that incorporates the distilleries Yoichi and Miyagikyo, and knocks out a load of different whiskies from gorgeous single cask Coffey-still grain bottlings to amazing blends such as Nikka from the Barrel.

The Nikka Taketsuru 21 Year Old is bottled at 43% and will cost you around £100. Colour: heavy oak stain, heather honey. On the nose: plenty of fat syrupy goodness, and lashings of molasses. Plum sauce. Red wine punchiness.

In the mouth: huh. Not quite all that, if I’m honest. I mean it’s solid: there’s a slight menthol note leading on to a peppery, five-spice kind of experience. Oak. Distant ginger, though I’d be inclined to say the sweetness of the fruits is making me think that. The texture isn’t that heavy – a kind of medium weight, in and out job, and certainly not as velvety as some I’ve had of late. Back to the spice on the finish. Very well balanced though.

It’s an okay whisky, but the mouth taste never quite meets up with the promising nose. I feel like I’ve been denied something. I’m not sure I could part with the better part of a £100 for this, when I could get myself a Chichibu for a little less than that… As for best blend in the world? I’d go for Nikka from the Barrel every time over this.


I've written about (and reviewed) whisky for Whisky Magazine, among other publications, and have been a whisky judge for competitions including the World Whiskies Awards. I've done other writing too: several mass market genre novels, a few short stories, including for BBC Radio 4. For my day job (I know, I don't get out much) I work in digital content. Follow me on or Generally, my tastes lean towards ex-sherry cask and ex-wine cask influences on the spirit, but I'm not so fussed as long as the whisky's gone into good wood.

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