It's always surprising to me that Japanese whisky has such a huge following when the name of the game is subtlety. Some of the most popular scotches are so jam-packed with peat that there's been something of an arms race to try to out-peat the peat-filled pandemonium that is Laphroaig 10.

So consider this: if we actually did like subtle whisky, wouldn't offerings from Glenkinchie, Glengoyne, or Auchentoshan be flying off the shelves? Wouldn't we talk about Canadian whisky as something drinkable in its own right rather than as the butt of a joke?

Anyway, I do think there's a time and a place for subtlety, and some very excellent Japanese whiskies nail what I expect. But this? No.

There's a trend in Japanese animation and comics where the protagonist is purposely drawn featureless and indistinct in order for the viewers—whoever they might be—to more easily project themselves onto the main character. That's basically Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt in a nutshell. It's a vague, whisky-shaped construct that you can project your idea of Japanese whisky onto.

This is the taste of the color beige.

It has peat, but not anything too substantial. It has fruit, but not any main fruit in particular. It has a nutty taste, but not something you'd be able to clearly identify. It's guilty of having too many things going on at once, but all in such small proportions that it becomes totally indistinct. This is the taste of the color beige.

It's not a bad whisky, but the price-to-quality ratio is all out of whack. This used to be a 12-year, age stated product, but that got dropped as soon as everyone clamored for more Japanese whisky. I hear the 12-year version was better, as is the 17-year or any of the “Black” or “White” pure malts. Apparently the Taketsuru Pure Malt remains a “vatted” malt, which is to say that there's no grain whiskey here, but given as light and inoffensive as all of the component malts are when combined together, it might as well have some grain component. 

If I were cynical, I would guess this was a product cobbled together from stocks that were not quite good-to-go in order to meet the gonzo demand for anything Japanese. In any case, it's not downright terrible, but it is an expensive miss.

Nose: A faint aroma of plums and grapes.
Taste: Prunes and oak bitterness combined with sharp, underripe fruit like apricot and kumquats. However, it also has a rocky, slate-like minerality that's reminiscent of tap water.
Finish: Dry, with raisin and faint oakiness.
Misc: 43% ABV, and apparently at least 10 years old. Word is it's some mix of Miyagikyo and Yoichi.
Price: $60
Overall Rating