I have a sentimental connection to this edition of the Talisker 25, as a generous group of friends made a surprise 40th birthday gift of it to me a few years ago. It was the first older Talisker I’d ever had and the first older whisky from which I began to get an inkling of the effect of the variable of time on whisky made in more or less a similar manner at the same distillery. There is a very clear family resemblance between the Talisker 10, the Talisker 18 and the Talisker 25s (with the 18 usually containing the most sherry influence) and the Talisker 25 in many ways tastes like a much older version of the 10 yo. This may seem like a somewhat obvious thing to say, but distilleries don’t always present similar profiles between their entry-level and older expressions (see my recent review of the Laphroaig 25, 2009 ed., for example, or see the vast difference between the now discontinued Springbank 10 and the richly sherried Springbank 18). Another way to put this might be to say that if you are looking for a refined older statesman, this is not the 25 yo whisky to buy—it is certainly more elegant than the 10 yo but is still rough around the edges in the Talisker manner.
Until a year or so ago the 2004, 2005 and 2009 editions of the Talisker 25 used to be easily available in the US for <$200, and were, in my opinion, a steal at the price. Now the 2004 is all but gone, and the 2005 and 2009 are harder and harder to find. And as of 2011 Diageo has lowered the abv of the Talisker 25 to the standard 45.8% of the regular line, and prices have gone up too. The lesson, as always, is that if there any bottles from Diageo's classic distilleries that you really like, you should stock up on them when you see prices you like.
(I'm not sure if there was a 2010 release of the Talisker 25, neither the Malt Maniacs database nor Whiskybase show any information for it. I have a sample of the 2006 and a bottle of the 2007 in store but am missing the 2008. If you have an open bottle and might be interested in a swap—within legal boundaries, of course—please let me know.)
Talisker 25, 2009 Release (54.8%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Peat—not phenolic or smoky as much as minerally. Quite a lot of salt too and a faint whiff of gunpowder. With a little more time there’s a sweet pepperiness and also dry, leafy smoke. Gets more coastal with time, with kelp, wet rocks, a slightly sweaty brine. With a lot more time there’s a savoury fruitiness—dried tangerine peel and some preserved lemon. And the peat gets stronger and sweeter/muskier. Water really gets the preserved lemon going and makes it a little brighter
Palate: Sweet peat followed by the classic Talisker pepper, followed by sweet peat again. Some savoury gunpowder as well, and then expanding salt. The palate doesn’t develop quite as much as the nose with time. Let’s see what water does: it makes it very minerally and quite austere. The peat is dryer too now and there’s some leafy smoke. After a little bit the peat gets a touch phenolic.
Finish: Long with expanding heat. Pepper and salt. The finish doesn’t change very much with water. Wait, that’s not true: there’s more peat on the finish too now, and well after the last sip a mildly ashy aftertaste develops on the tongue.
Comments: If your frame of reference for Talisker is the excellent 10 yo you might be surprised, and possibly disappointed, by the relatively laid back character of this 25 yo. There is nothing rough about it, though that’s probably not a surprise after long aging. At the same time, it’s not a highly refined elder statesman either—the familiar Talisker bite shows through every once in a while. It does need time to unlock all its qualities, and the nose shows interesting development with a touch of water. I don’t mean to give the impression that I’ve had a lot of older Taliskers or Broras (at this point, the only Broras available are old Broras) but this edition of the Talisker 25 seems quite close to the non-heavily peated Broras from the late 1970s and early 1980s that I’ve had the good fortune to try. Of currently active distilleries I’d put this profile in a continuum with Clynelish and Longrow.
Rating: 89 points.