Masataka Taketsuru, the renowned Father of Japanese whisky is the legendary figure instrumental in the creation of Japanese whiskys. Belonging to an established Sake Family from Takehara (close to Hiroshima), it was normal to presume he would take over his father’s Sake Business, which he thought he would too. As a young man out of school, he decided to pursue Chemistry to perfect the intricacies of brewing sake, so he could join back his family business. His hard work paid off and he got accepted into the University of Glasgow to work on his Organic Chemistry degree. However, fate had something else stored for him. A chance encounter with Scotch in Glasgow instantly turned into love at first sight for Taketsuru and there was no looking back after that! He made use of his time in Scotland to train as an apprentice in the distillery at Longmorn and from then is where he started his journey into whisky making and blending. In 1920 he went back to Japan and after heavy search for sites, closed in on Yoichi in Hokkaido (Northern Island) as the right place with similar climatic conditions as Scotland, to establish his distillery which later came to be known as Nikka Whisky. Pls see the photo gallery to see Yoichi distillery in one of my visits to Japan.
Japanese whisky is known to be unique because of its water, the people who make it and their culture of commitment to perfection. In Japan, whisky is meant to be consumed with dinner and hence needs to be subtle and not over bearing over the food and yet create some powerful long lasting memories when paired with food. The whiskies hence seeks to reflect the delicate cuisine, the surrounding environment, the climate where they are produced and the source of water from where they get their purity of character.
Taketsuru 21years old is Nikka’s special and highly revered blended whisky from their two distilleries : Miyagiko and Yoichi. One of the best summer tastings of 2017 for me, we stumbled upon this accidentally in Tokyo and the tasting was simply mesmerising! Peach, apricot and baked stone fruits gave way to dried figs, marmalade, dark chocolate, coffee beans and smoky earthy notes. The palate is rich, yet mellow with good spicy finish at the end. The texture, flawless and delicate; the layers peel off slowly over the mid palate creating some powerful flavours that are quite focused but end on subtle tones. This whisky won the Best Blended Malt at the 2010 World Whiskies award for a reason! Japanese whiskies are becoming more and more rare as I observed within Japan and equally so, outside as well, due to tight allocations, so if you get a sip of this whisky, you can consider yourself very lucky indeed! And you may not find many whiskies at a decent 43% abv in today's world.... How to drink it? In a high ball glass with ice and soda topped with mint leaf or dash of lemon as the locals do. Or add a few drops of water to the whisky in a tumbler, let the complex aromas disperse and flow out along with the resulting viscosity that will demonstrate the expression and potential of this whisky!