Nikka Pure Malt Black


Score: 85/100
ABV: 43%
Region: Japan
Body: Light
Best served:
Theme(s): Sweet peat, apple, cotton candy, wet oak, cocoa
Likes: Distinct Japanese sweetness with bursts of peat

Dislikes: Syrupy sweetness, weak finish  
Price: $100

The Nikka Pure Malt Black is a Japanese whisky comprising of whisky primarily from the Yoichi distillery. It is bottled at 43% alcohol volume, but packs a mean Judo chop to the palate! (which then dies too quickly). This whisky has been praised by other reviewers, but I struggle to see what all the fuss is about. It struck me as a little unbalanced towards the sweet side, and it was somewhat dominated by sherry which suffocated the peat and smoke I was expecting.

Nikka writes that Yoichi produces “rich, peaty and masculine malt”, and that this distillery’s whisky gets a distinct flavour and aroma from the use of “finely powered natural coal” used to heat the pot stills. That’s the first time I’ve heard a whisky described as “masculine”… I better not touch that one.

This whisky is described as having a strong peated flavour, so I blind tasted this whisky alongside other peated whiskies including the Ardbeg Galileo, Lagavulin 16 Year Old and Sheep Dip “Old Hebridean” 1990. The Nikka Pure Malt Black was, in my opinion, the least impressive. That said, it is still very good in my view.

Tasting Notes – Nikka Pure Malt Black 

This whisky is not, as Nikka claim, heavily peated or rugged in the sense that it is “masculine”. It is in fact light and soft, with undertones of peat rising up through the sweetness. The sweetness is syrupy and at its foundation is sherry and light caramel.  


Initially dull on the nose, the soft and sweet peat rises up with very mild licorice and sugary candy gently shines with bright fresh apple slices; Granny Smith (green) apple in particular. This has a distinct candied sweetness about it, that balances nicely against the peat and oak.


An initial burst of sweet peat morphs into sparks of dry grass burning gently (no apple in sight!), and then a sweetness develops in the form of sugary sherry that has undertones of burnt caramel that releases a mild bitterness with helpings of oak and cocoa. The sweetness does become quite syrupy after a while, and this sugary character lingers on the palate. Again, this has a distinct candied character within the theme of peat; though I would disagree that the peat in this whisky is in any way dominant. In fact, I would say the sweetness dominates somewhat. I also would not say this whisky is “rich”, as it has quite a brittle body to be called “rich” and while it has some clout this is short lived.


The finish is pleasant, but the sweetness is one dimensional on the finish with some sparks of peat. The finish is not powerful, and I was a little disappointed with the weakness of the finish. Even still, I really like this whisky.

2 thoughts on “Nikka Pure Malt Black

  1. Yes I certainly found the sweetness was extended but then I don't mind a bit of sweetness in the bottle and that is typical of Japanese whiskies. I cannot recall ever tasting any notes of peat at all though. I was buying at $60 a bottle imported including shipping so I found it good value, but at $100 a bottle as you indicated no way it is not worth that for value.

  2. Thanks for your comment! When tasting and re-tasting this whisky many times over the life of its bottle a distinct sweet peat note emerged each time within the Yoichi themed foundation. I just wanted to add that i plan to review Nikka All Malt soon.


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