Monday, November 26, 2012

In-house Taketsuru Seminar at Whisky Cat 1494

Through invitation my Sunday afternoon was spent at Whisky Cat 1494, where the captain of the ship, Yoshimura-san, conducted a Taketsuru seminar/tasting. I couldn't think of a better way to spend my remaining hours of the weekend before it was back to the grime on Monday. Bar Whisky Cat 1494 runs off an ancient arcade and it is an establishment you wouldn't stumble across by chance as its entrance is slightly camouflaged. The only evidence that the premises is a whisky bar and not a normal residence is the small pot still with a little kitty pocking out the top (hence the name) that is fixed to the equally ancient door.

Once inside, however, there is nothing ancient about this place besides the lovely array of old bottlings which consist mainly of Scotch and a handful of Japanese whisky gems. The bar area, is reasonably small but it posses all the right qualities one seeks when heading out for a dram. The couple run establishment provides an extremely warm and friendly environment that is perhaps one of my favourite things about the place, that and some excellent Hakushu Owner's Cask bottlings.

Moving on from the bar, all the action took place in "The Tasting" room which is situated directly to the right of the bar. Huge wooden beams, high-ceilings, candle chandeliers and white walls greeted all the participants on the day. The interior that is reminiscent of a farm yard-barn (in a very positive way) paved way for the day's line-up, which naturally included Taketsuru's full portfolio (excluding the 35-year-old): 12, 17, and 17 non-chill-filtered, 21, and 25-year-olds. For good measure a blind tasting and surprise malt was also included.

The day started like any seminar/tasting with an in-depth introduction on Taketsuru-san's familiar background and the pioneer's upbringing that consisted of his studies in Osaka and Scotland, his marriage to Scottish born Rita, and his endless efforts in the industry spanning from 1894 all the way up to his departure in 1979. This was conducted by Yoshimura-san, which was then followed up with a video presentation from the distillery manager of Yoichi who gave his personal tasting notes on the drams uniformly put in front of us. Time was crucial and unfortunately a bit rushed so my own notes on each expression are brief but hopefully will give you insight into the brands character and its range of Pure Malts through my interpretation (no water added).

Taketsuru 12-year-old Pure Malt: Fresh fruits, banana and apples. The longer this sits the apple becomes more like concentrated apple juice. Biscuits and silent peat were amongst very little vanilla.

Taketsuru 17-year-old Pure Malt: The peat is much more evident here than its younger brother of the family. Sherry, raisins, chocolate, and a heavy dose of cereal (cornflakes) both on the nose and palate were the stand-outs. After time oranges become present but not in its fresh form but more like a spicy marmalade.

Taketsuru 17-year-old non-chill-filtered Pure Malt: Posses all the qualities of the standard 17-yo but it is much more fresh. The peat appears to be fresher and there is a bigger emphasis on dried fruits in particular figs.

Taketsuru 21-year-old Pure Malt: A massive sherry emphasis from the variety of casks used. Lovely thick aromas of peach and figs were dominant. On the palate the peat is sweet and sophisticated. This malt is lovely and warming with a chocolate and honey finish.

Taketsuru 25-year-old Pure Malt: A lush range of fruits in both dried and fresh form, just like the 21-yo but these fruits are more tropical on the nose: mango, rock melon, and papaya. This is a powerful whisky consisting of three key malts (one Yoichi and two Miyagikyo). It lingers with a slightly bitter sherry finish. The background peat fights for recognition amongst the thick fruit and sherry.

The blind tasting, which the majority of punters predicted, including myself, was the 10-year-old Yoichi single malt. I plan to do a review on this as well as the 17-year-old Taketsuru at Whiskies R Us so I won't go into detail on this malt. This was followed by the "surprise malt"; perhaps surprise was not the right classification as everyone in the room on Sunday was more ecstatic than surprised. Nikka vintage whisky aged 34-years: This extremely sophisticated dram is compromised of whiskies distilled in 1964 that were matured in Oak Casks for 34 years, prior to the blending and bottling in 1998. This gem was my seventh malt of the day, although sensational in every way, I dare say I could have got so much more from it if I sampled this right of the bat.

To conclude I think it's reasonably fair to say that the Taketsuru line-up posses many similar qualities throughout the age range. Some age expressions emphasize qualities more so than others, while the elder brothers of the family are the ones which break away and add different characters to their younger siblings with sophistication and freshness. I favoured the no-chill-filtered 17-year-old on the day, and some may agree, others most likely not, the 21-year-old Taketsuru won my vote over the 25-yo. The later is a fantastic and exotic malt by all means, but as a personal preference the bitter but subtle finish knocked of a few points making the former (21-yo) a winner, and a must have permanent malt for the cabinet.

Details (in Japanese) on Bar Whisky Cat 1494


  1. looks like their blog covered the event.

    1. Thanks for sharing the information Mike, yes, it looks like they have briefly mentioned it also themselves....along with the guests faces blanked out.

  2. Hi Clint, I could not think of a Sunday afternoon better spent. From my own experience I can tell how challenging it is to taste a number of whiskies in quick succession while trying to record some very basic tasting notes. Still, it must have been great fun. I would very much look forward to more blog entries of this kind!

    1. Hi Pierre, it is a bit difficult to maximize the experience when everything is a little rushed. I generally take a bit of time when reviewing my own malts at home so the notes on the line-up were brief. Still, a good opportunity to review all of them at a later date in private. As for these types of post entries, you can expect more to come. I plan to attend another seminar in December if things work out well, so keep your eyes out. I won't give too much away but naturally the seminar will be on Japanese whisky, a malt produced from the same distilleries.