Review: Nikka Pure Malt Black

Sunday, March 01, 2015


Continuing with our range of Nikka reviews we've arrived at the Pure Malt Black blended whisky. This blend is made mainly from whisky produced at the Yoichi distillery that is located on the northern island of Hokkaido, near the town of Otaru.

Being situated towards the northern end of what we consider Japan to be, the distillery is surrounded by mountains including mount Tenguyama. It enjoys a climate similar to Scotland although from further reading I suggest they have more snow and far more sunshine than I experience annually. Of course the site of the distillery was selected by Masataka Taketsuru himself as an ideal site for making whisky; no doubt influenced from his experiences in Scotland.

Having established the Yamazaki distillery and completed his contract with the Kotobukiya Company, he embarked on his next project in 1934. Having chosen the site at Yoichi, the initial production was from the plentiful local fruits with ciders, brandy and fruit juices. Much like new distilleries today who produce gins and new make releases, a revenue stream was needed initially to establish the business before embarking on the costly practice of producing whisky. It's signature style was soon established with a peaty robust and heavy spirit being preferred.

The distillery site was recognised as a national cultural asset by the Japanese government in 2004 and it is often referred to as the jewel in the Japanese whisky crown. It looks like a wonderful place to visit and was already very popular with tourists even before the recent television series about Masataka Taketsuru and his wife Rita. The site also contains their living quarters and a shrine to both as this is their final resting place.

So how does this Pure Black register on our Nikka voyage?

Distillery: blend but mostly from Yoichi distillery
Price: circa £35 for 50cl
Strength: 43% vol

Colour: honey

Nose: the richness of marzipan followed on the edge by some black pepper. Also evident is a little ginger and the sweetness of butterscotch before transmitting into brown sugar and orange peel.

Taste: lots of treacle, honey and vanilla making for a lovely dessert. It is almost bourbon in its wood influence as it is very robust especially compared to the previous Nikka's we've had. Left to stand for a while with a drop of water and the smoky aspect begins to come through.

Pick of the bunch so far and another masterclass in Japanese whisky blending, its easy to see why this blend is so highly regarded and popular at retail.

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