Having recently listed Talisker as one of my very favourite distilleries, I felt it was time to review one of their whiskies for the blog. And as I am all about untimely reviews, here is my take on this special vatting released to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the distillery in 2005.
I have to say that I do feel a little odd about listing Talisker as one of my five favourite distilleries (Laphroaig, Bowmore, Highland Park and Springbank are the others in my current top five). This because I’ve not really had very many Taliskers. There are almost no recent independent bottlings of Talisker around, and once you get out of the regular official rotation Talisker gets pretty expensive pretty fast. I’ve had a number of the 10 yo and 18 yo releases (though I can’t say I’ve noticed much variation over time), a couple of the Distiller’s Editions (which I am not crazy about), the cask strength 57 North, a few of the 25 yo’s and that’s pretty much it. (I have a 30 yo in reserve for a special occasion and a sample of the Manager’s Choice that I received in a swap.)
This doesn’t seem like much of a sample size from which to declare a distillery a favourite (I mean, I own more Laphroaigs than I have tasted Taliskers)—it seems a bit like declaring Brora a favourite distillery on the basis of having tasted five or six of them; but there it is: there’s something about the Talisker profile that does it for me, and it’s one of the few distilleries in Scotland whose malt has a truly idiosyncratic distillery character (though this impression may well be fostered by the lack of variation available from independents); it is also true that the Talisker 10 was one of the gateway whiskies through which I moved from enjoying the occasional single malt to becoming obsessed with whisky—and so there’s a sentimental link as well (and it must be said that Talisker is a great name too). At any rate, there are things I enjoy in Talisker that I don’t find in other whiskies and so I am going to stop explaining now why it is I put it in my list of top five distilleries.
Talisker 175 (45.8%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Somewhat farmy (I guess that’s the peat); some salt. A pungent, almost fruity aroma that reminds me of a tonic of some sort that used to be forced down my throat when I was a kid (though I quite like it here). What is the fruit? Pomegranate? Cherry? Something red. The salt/brine gets more prominent with time as does the peat (nothing very phenolic though). After a while there’s a hint of caramel too (and I don’t mean the stuff that gives the younger Taliskers their obviously fake tan).
Palate: Okay, there’s the Talisker pepper (not very much though). Very mild peat, a hint of gunpowder, simple syrup. Very, very drinkable (more’ish, as my Brit friends would say). With time the peat gets a little more pronounced and dark/rich fruity notes develop too: apricot, dark raisins, a touch of orange liqueur. The peppery bite gets stronger with time–a little Sichuan peppercorn in there too. Gets just a little bit more astringent at the end.
Finish: Not terribly interesting. The lasting impression is of light, tingling hints of wood spice and some salt.
Comments: Not as assertive and to the point as the classic 10 yo. There’s clearly a fair amount of sherry in the vatting, but unlike in the amoroso cask finished Distiller’s Edition, the sherry doesn’t drown the Taliskeriness of this Talisker. I do have a feeling though that this whisky has blunted a bit as the bottle has sat open (I did not add any water tonight). It’s time to hurry up and finish it now. A side note: this goes rather well with some very dark chocolate (which is how I finished the last few sips).
Rating: 87 points.