Japanese whisky producer Nikka has an impressive range of offerings highlighting different styles of whisky from single malts, to various blends, and two different grain whiskies. For their blended malts, Nikka offers the Taketsuru Pure Malt and an additional line of Pure Malts labeled by color (corresponding to their particular blend) and packaged in a unique, smaller (500ml) laboratory-style bottle. Some in this line are getting harder to find, but Nikka Pure Malt Black (the best of the bunch, in my opinion) should still be easily found overseas and in travel retail markets. Like the Taketsuru Pure Malt, Nikka Pure Malt Black is a blended malt, made from a combination of whisky from both Nikka distilleries: Miyagikyo and Yoichi. Technically a vatting of only malted whisky, it is not like most traditional Scottish blends, which mix in grain whiskeys with the single malts.
The honey-colored Pure Malt Black struggles a little to reveal much complexity on the nose. But with a little time, the initial smoke, peat, and cereal notes develop into peach and plum with a very slight grassiness. It’s mild but inviting. The palate is less subdued and showcases toasted oak, more wood smoke, and toffee with a balanced peat underlying it all. A slight citrus, almost lemon quality, is muted but it’s there too. The finish is medium length, sweet, and leathery with a gentle heat and fading black pepper notes. There’s clearly more of the peaty Yoichi in this blend than the fruitier and brighter Miyagikyo, but the flavors are exceptionally well integrated.
Nikka Pure Malt Black achieved some fame back in 2014 when Jim Murray gave it a Liquid Gold Award in his annual Whisky Bible. I’m not sure I would call it “liquid gold,” but it is superior in many ways to the Taketsuru Pure Malt.