Whilst new Japanese distilleries such as Akkeshi, Nagahama, Kanosuke and Sakurao are potentially heralding the dawning of a golden age for Japanese whisky, current stock levels (and unwavering demand) have reduced much of the category down to a near bare bones offering – especially outside of Japan. Age-statement whisky from Japan is largely the purview of the rich and auction houses, and unscrupulous producers (and a lack of sensible legislation) have allowed the proliferation of a wealth of new Japanese whisky, that isn’t actually Japanese at all. Nevertheless, there are still some gems out there – they might not possess age-statements, or serious cache – but they’re still well worth seeking out. Nikka’s From the Barrel is one such whisky.
There’s been a deluge of updated Scottish single malt core ranges announced over the last couple of weeks – Mortlach, Fettercairn and Pulteney to name but a few. In most cases (we’re still awaiting the full Pulteney line-up reveal) there appears to be a move back towards age-statement bottlings. Despite decades of education suggesting that age statements matter, and then years of information completely to the contrary, we’re now coming around full circle to some degree. What probably (and indeed should) matter the most is the consumer. Over in Japan, the current situation with regards to age statements is to some degree more clear cut – there’s simply not enough stock to even contemplate it.
The ‘Father of Japanese Whisky’ Masataka Taketsuru died in 1979 having changed the industry indelibly. One of the very last expressions he personally worked on was the Tsuru 17 year old blend. Whilst you might think that the bottle name derives from Masataka’s name, it actually has its own meaning, that of ‘Crane’ in Japanese.
Nikka’s Taketsuru lineup of whiskies are described as ‘pure malts’ – a descriptor which is entirely accurate, as these whiskies are blended, but only composed of single malts – pure in a sense. In the UK we’d call this a blended malt, and many of you might be old enough to remember when the term ‘vatted’ was used for such bottlings. As a pure malt, Taketsuru bottlings have only two constituents liquids: Miyagiyko and Yoichi. There are three expressions in the series – Takesuru NAS, a 17 year old and a 21 year old. Mercifully when Nikka culled many of their age-statement whiskies, the Taketsuru series was spared – but allocations of the age-stated bottles are still very small, whilst the company looks to replenish its stocks.