Nikka Pure Malt Red 43%abv

P1050291Nose: Cantaloupe, rose water, vanilla wafers, white peaches, fresh cut timber, pink grapefruit.
Palate: A bowl of mixed nuts, white peaches, peanut butter, there’s both savory and herbal elements, strawberries.
Finish: Salt, nuts, herbs such as cloves and oregano.
Last Word: Not a whisky that is going to blow your mind but blended with a purpose to be lighter in style to accompany food or as a summer sipper and with an emphasis Miyagikyo Malt Whisky. If this was Scottish it would be a Lowland Whisky.

Rating: 82/100

Yamazakura Pure Malt Whisky Aged 15 Years Ex Bourbon & Wine Casks 43%abv

P1050279Nose: Cantaloupe, honeydew melon, almonds, macadamia’s, hint of white pepper and a slight dusty note.
Palate: Without water I’d say fairly one dimensional on peanuts, peanut butter, black pepper and freshly sawn timber. Water brings back the cantaloupe and macadamia’s and adds some strawberry compote and cocoa powder.
Finish: Cantaloupe, peanut butter and some mouth drying wood tannins.
Last Word: While I would not call this a bad or cheap tasting spirit, it just doesn’t get me excited. I also have an unopened bottle of the Yamakazura Cask Strength Sherry Wood Finish so will be reviewing that some time down the track.

Rating: 80/100

Ichiro’s Malt and Grain Kiyosato Field Ballet 26th Anniversary Bottling 48%abv

IMG_3985-2Nose: Earthy, licorice, molasses, fruity notes from a well aged rum, leather, tobacco, lapsang souchong. If you can call a nose smooth this is smooth.
Palate: Again the long aged rum is prevalent but not overwhelming. Caramelised orange juice, tobacco, leather, lapsang souchong, mixed herbs, ginger heat, salt. Well balanced, interesting, tasty and with no rough edges whatsoever.
Finish: Leather, tobacco, tar, pine, molasses and coconut.
Last Word: I’ve tasted a number of Ichiro’s Malt and Grain bottling’s and this one is a stand out! Not cheap, but if you have the readies this is a highly recommended whisky and better than the majority of Ichiro’s Card Series I’ve tasted.

Rating: 92/100
Note: A blend of 25YO Hanyu Single Malt from 1990 and 33YO Kawasaki Single Grain from 1982.

Ichiro’s Malt & Grain Single Cask Blended Whisky Bourbon Cask #4084 57.4%

P1030187Nose: Needs a lot of water to reveal any nuances. Tequila like pepper. Barley, fresh cut timber, orange peel, apricot jam, hint of ash.
Palate: Without water this is an overpowering whisky. Big alcohol, big heat. Not cheap alcohol, just too full on. With water there is Brazil nuts, pepper, nougat, spearmint, barley and apricot jam.
Finish: All of the flavors fade quickly except for the pepper that coats the mouth and hangs on for an age.
Last Word: Too hard hitting at full strength, it takes a lot of water to bring this one to heel. Even then it is not a particularly complex or cohesive whisky.

Rating: 80/100

*Note: This one is was commissioned by Liquors Hasegawa to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Yaechika Mall at Tokyo Station.

Nikka Taketsuru NAS Sherry Wood Finish 43%abv

taketsuru_sherry_wood_NASNose: Maltesers, caramel, oak, lacquer, dried fruits. Very gentle.
Palate: This is where things step up a few notches over the Taketsuru 12YO(I haven’t tried the standard NAS). Lots of juicy dried fruits, malt, quite a some pepper, sugared orange slices, and in lesser measure sherry, cloves and paprika. The oak is subdued.
Finish: Dried fruits, sugared orange slices, sherry, young tawny port and some decent length.
Last Word: Not amazingly complex but well balanced, the extra punch offered by the sherry cask finish is a welcome addition. Nose is a bit soft for my liking however.

Rating: 83/100

*Sample courtesy of Clint at Whiskies R Us

Nikka Takesturu 17YO circa 2013 43%abv


Nose: Oak, grated orange rind, fabric softener, strawberries, dates, honey oats, mild rose petal, scallop’s.
Palate: Hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, mustard, Arnott’s savory shapes, pepper, bubblegum, nougat, scallop’s. There is a unbalancing bitter element in the mix I’m not fussed about.
Finish: Nougat, mixed nuts, strawberries, bubblegum, some ashy dryness, ginger ale.
Last Word: Not mentioned in the above but it feels a little weak. I remember my first bottle being robust of nose and palate. This one feels a little watered down for want of a better description and the bitterness on the palate is a little off putting. The bitterness does tend to diminish after a couple of drams however.

Rating: 80/100

Kirin Pure Malt 18YO Oloroso Sherry Casks 1975-78-1997 46%abv

kirin-seagrams-pure-malt-18yo-1975-78-1997-bottle-269-of-360-46Nose: Maple Syrup, mild chicken korma, BBQ grilled pineapple, vanilla, honey, buttered crumpets, licorice, damp earth, butterscotch, walnuts, Pineapple Lumps, Granny Smith apples, mango, light tobacco. Plush!
Palate: Sharp blue cheese, pomegranate’s, mixed peel, papaya, hot spices, tobacco, burnt banana, oak, big saltiness. Water smooth’s things out, the maple syrup and honey make a return and some burnt lemon meringue is added. Big stuff at ‘only’ 46%.
Finish: Some coal, dried fruits, papaya, burnt lemon meringue pie, BBQ grilled banana, oak, butter, salt and pineapple.
Last Word: The nose is exquisite. Palate is fiery and needs water. A powerful and interesting whisky.

Rating: 89/100


Mars Iwai Tradition WIne Cask Finish 40%abv

mars-iwai-tradition-wine-cask-finish-40-1Nose: Cherry Ripes, blood oranges, honey, toffee, tree resin, white peach, whole meal dough, Turkish delights.
Palate: Fig jam, Turkish delights, madeira, poppy seed and orange cake, toffee, honey, ginger, ginger bread, salt and a little pepper.
Finish: Ginger bread, honey, figs, dates, nutmeg, salt and some drying tannins.
Last Word: Hard to believe this is a blend. Amazing quality-price ratio at only $23 for a 750ml bottle.

Rating: 86/100

Mars Maltage Pure Malt 8-year-old. 43% abv

mars-moltage-pure-malt-8yo-43Nose: Stewed fruits, sherry, honey, earth, peat, pencil shavings
Palate: Peppery spice, sherry, coconut, mint, chocolate, stewed fruits, malt and peat.
Finish: Spicy, malty, earthy, minty, with good length and a little drying.
Last Word: The Peat/Smoke intensifies nicely after being open for 6-8 months and the last 15-20% of the bottle. Like this one a lot.

Rating: 86/100

Suntory Gold Sherry Cask Blended Malt 42%abv

 Nose: Not great. A little sherry and oak. Label says it was fully matured in Sherry casks. Doesn’t taste like it. Also, plasticine, glue and cheap brandy.
Palate: A little better than the nose with bread dough, some lime and tangerine. Then ruined again by the plasticine and glue.
Finish: Bitter, with plasticine and, thankfully, short.
Last Word: According to The Whisky Exchange, this was bottled in the 70s. Not Suntory’s finest hour.
Rating: 60/100
*This one may be a single malt as it was matured at Yamazaki and back in the day it was not unusual for Yamazaki/Hakushu single malts to be labeled as pure/blended malts.


Suntory Kioke Shiome Pure Malt 1981 43%abv

suntory-kioke-shiome-1981-750ml-435Nose: Quite woody and a little musty. Hints of molding oranges, lemon, tinned pears.
Palate Honey, lemon, solvent, soap flakes, pepper, a little sherry, woody and again the molding oranges.
Finish: Pretty much as per the palate with some late coal. Not much to it really.
Last Word: Not to my liking tasted neat. Made a fair mixer.
Rating: 75/100
* An alternate review from Whiskies R US

Nikka Pure Malt Black 43%abv circa 2012

nikka-pure-malt-black-circa-2012Nose: Loads of malt, touch of sherry, bubblegum, blueberries, pine. Some earthiness. Doesn’t sound exciting but it’s quite lovely.
Palate: Light body. Malt, bubblegum, toffee, nutmeg, coconut, cashews and that touch of sherry. Late arrival of smoke and ash ala Yoichi. Tasty.
Finish: Basically follows the palate with quite some smoke and ash.
Last Word: Ridiculously good for the money at less that $20 Australia in Japan. Right on par or maybe even a touch better than the 2010 batch so same score.

Rating: 87/100

Nikka Taketsuru 21 43% circa 2010


Nose: Masses of sweet oak, wheat, peaches, and the first hints I’ve had from this one of some sherry in the equation. After a while there are some floral notes.
Palate: Salt, big oak, malt, biscuity, ginger spice, black pepper, the soft coating on the outside of peanuts. Packs a lot more punch than 43% might suggest.
Finish: Is warming and a tad alcoholic. Medium length, mainly leaves some fresh mintyness and peanuts on the palate then a little dry.
Rating: 86/100

Suntory “Zen” pure malt. 40%abv


Nose: Gentle and and fairly closed. Notes of pear, oregano, varnish or paint thinner, eucalyptus, pepper and salt. Okay it doesn’t sound closed but it’s a few days between whiskies and I’m picking up more than I would normally with this one. Palate: Smooth and soft, mainly malt and cream. Some nutmeg spice and a little pepper. Finish: Short, simple, a bit dry or dusty. Then, a mineral-like quality and bamboo shoots.
Last Word: This is a uncomplicated malt, easy to drink, nice enough, but lacks complexity.
Rating: 70/100

Suntory Pure Malt Whisky, aged 7 years Black label 43%abv


Nose: Smooth, quite heavy sherry. Oak, raisins, stone fruit (plums?), toffee, wood stain. What seems like a touch of peat or smoke.
Palate: Ripe stone fruit, Christmas cake, milk chocolate, raisins, wood stain and again that hint of smoke/burnt twigs/matches…. or something like that. Well balanced.
Finish: Spicy, raisins, plums, chocolate, mint. Warming on the chest and of medium length. A little dry.

Rating: 85/100

Nikka Pure Malt White 43%abv circa 2010


This whisky is a vatting of Yoichi malt and an Islay whisky.
Nose: There is a good whiff of peat as well as walnuts, wet moss, leather, sea spray, pepper, wood stain (after breathing for a while) and nectarines. After some time, there is a hint of lemon.
Palate: Nicely oily (nut oil). The peat comes through big time. Also charcoal, pepper and a slight bitterness. The second sip adds walnuts, creamy macadamia and a kind of minted toffee to the picture.
Finish: Medium length with earthy/vegetal peat dominating; macadamia, spice and mint. Slightly drying.
Last Word: This is ever so moreish and a real bargain. One for lovers of peaty whisky.
Rating: 88/100

Suntory Pure Malt “Hokuto”. Aged 12 years. 40%abv


Nose: A dreamy mix of gentle oak, vanilla, cream, tropical fruits such as banana, papaya (paw paw) and guava.
Palate: Smooth and creamy mouth feel and basically follows the nose, with some white pepper spice thrown in.
Finish: Warming and of medium length. Spicy, oaky and herbaceous.
Last Word: I have loved this whisky from the moment I opened the bottle.This was great value at about 20 euros in Japan. Such a shame it was discontinued
Rating: 88/100

Nikka Pure Malt Black circa 2010 43%abv


Nose: A little bit floral. Peaches, oak, peat, varnish, and pineapple. Malty, complex and smooth.
Palate: Very malty, bubblegum (a trait I find in many a Nikka/Yoichi/Miyagikyo whiskies), pepper, nutmeg, sweet peat and gentle smoke.
Finish: Excellent length, with peat, pepper, nutmeg, mint chocolate and lingering smoke.
General comment: Tasty and great value in Japan.

Rating: 87/100