Talisker 10

Talisker 10
The Talisker 10 is an all-time classic and one of my favourite whiskies…except I don’t think I’ve had it in more than a couple of years (as per my spreadsheet, not since October 2010 but that seems unlikely). Word on the street is that its quality may have slipped. As always with Diageo, it is hard to separate dislike of the giant global conglomerate and its practices from one’s feelings about individual products. At any rate, I can’t judge potential decline here as this (recently opened) bottle is from 2009 which is probably from before the narrative of decline kicks in.

Talisker 10 (45.8%; from my own bottle)

Nose: Hot tarmac and then a sweet, slightly rubbery note transitioning to minerally peat. Quite a bit of salt too after a minute and some fruit lurking below (dried orange peel, a bit of apricot). And shiver my timbers if I’m not also getting some of those floral, quasi-mezcal’ish notes I got on the nose of the Speakeasy. Those notes go away with time though. Water softens the nose a bit, pushing the salt back and pulling out some vanilla. With more time there’s some gunpowder/rock salt too.

Palate: Leads with the minerally peat followed by some dry smoke and a truck load of salt. Some sweetness in there too but it doesn’t register very well on the first sip. On the second sip the sweetness is stony/minerally and mixed in with the smoke and a touch of gunpowder. And here’s the trademark pepper (not so much red chilli as Sichuan peppercorn). Some citrus emerges with time. Let’s see if water pulls out more. Yes, it does (lemon) along with more smoke and, as on the nose, it also pushes back the salt. Gets smokier as it goes.

Finish: Long. The peat and the salt are the main players, with the peat and some coal smoke lingering after the salt calms down. Still quite salty here with water, but there’s less peat now than pepper. Still, there’s quite a bit of smoke on the sides of tongue well after the swallow.

Comments: Just as good as I remember it being. Also, saltier than I remember it being. Massive bite at 45.8%–at cask strength this would be a true monster. I liked it better with water.

Rating: 87 points.

21 thoughts on “Talisker 10

  1. Here is some speculation about the timing of the Talisker 10yo decline – see the discussion. I’m stating the obvious here, but you need to rush out, buy a fresh bottle of the 10yo and tell us how it compares with the 2009. You’ll get no fight from anyone that in 2009 this was an awesome whisky!

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        • Or taste it blind, head-to-head, against earlier versions and see how that comes out. To taste it isolated and identified, yes, readily demands a position on the “Talisker’s falling” debate, pro or con; throw it in a mix of blind samples and I’ll have more faith in what’s what.

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        • I’m mostly just giving Michael and Florin some shit here. But it should be noted that blind tasting cuts both ways: that is to say, it’s not just those sceptical of or neutral towards a narrative of decline who should test that blind but also those who support that narrative.

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          • Sure, and obviously; but in terms of narratives, I find it odd that Diageo can tell you about all the market stresses it’s under in terms of higher demand for product and for quality casks, etc. which backs up their pricing, yet there’s never any mention about how these forces are affecting their products beyond pricing – just one great wood management success after another, so long as one accepts the idea that age matters here but not there depending on what the marketing guy has to say about it.

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          • I like it how the “Talisker 10/Lagavulin 16/whatever are no longer very good” list no longer includes Laphroaig 10yo/10yo CS, which you convinced yourself is no longer its former self.

            And if what you’re saying is, before you accuse me take a look at yourself, then fine, I’ll split a new Talisker 10yo with you – but I don’t have any reference samples of the good ones. And a Glenlivet Nadurra while we’re at it.

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      • One cannot call someone’s opinion malarkey, but….Serge, Whisky Advocate called and said your scores were inflated.

        The 87 score I gave my last bottle of Talisker 10 (2012 bottle code) was generous. I couldn’t finish the bottle. I brought it to a casual tasting and left it there. And normally I’m not that guy. I did save a sample to try alongside older bottlings, and I may even do that blindly. Now I’m struggling with a bottle of Lagavulin 16 that is very watery and seems to be missing, you know, Lagavulin. I would be happy to save MAO a sample.

        But back to Serge’s post. My experience with Talisker Storm couldn’t be any more different than his. Storm is loaded to the teeth with sawdust, vanilla, and caramel. Beneath that is some good young stuff, like a watered down version of the 5yo Speakeasy. And there’s some good pepper in there too. It’s not bad whisky, but it has all of the “new” and “modern” woody characteristics that Serge usually bemoans. As for the 10, maybe we should all split a 2014 bottle and see if we get the same notes as he. It’s not impossible. But if I find half of the characteristics that he mentions, I’d be very happy. And I would buy my own bottle, Diego’s hijinks be damned.

        But we know all whisky changes. Companies select different yeasts and barley strains. Managers are rotated out. Thousands of different barrels arrive. Sometimes companies choose to refresh those casks in new ways. Lagavulin changed warehouses. Laphroaig received different washbacks. It’s inevitable that some whiskies change for the worse. I think Glenmorangie 10 has changed for the better. I heard eighth-hand that Talisker has a new Blender (with a capital ‘B’?) as of a couple years ago. Dunno if that’s true, but if it is, maybe the newest 10s are better.

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          • Ah yes, but I must continue to be a red ass about Talisker. Really it was Serge’s Talisker post that inspired my response. While I don’t question his palate, I am beginning to wonder if I can relate to his palate. If his palate is much different than mine, then how useful are his notes and scores? I don’t mind posting this publicly because I think readers shouldn’t just run after everything the experts(!) say is great. They should compare what they like with what Serge likes, SKU likes, MAO likes, I like, etc., especially if they choose to use reviews as buying guides.

            I really do hope to do a Talisker 10 lineup some year. And I was serious about saving you a sample of this bottle of Lagavulin 16. While I don’t think it stands in for all Lagavulin 16……well, I hope it doesn’t.

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  2. I agree that the proof is in the pudding, but what I’m also getting at is that, even if you look at Diageo’s own narrative, there should be some effects on the quality of the whisky along the lines of “there’s only so much quality to go around”, yet when it comes to saying where quality is actually being diluted, it’s always somewhere else – kind of like Middle Eastern countries pumping out billions of barrels of oil but not reporting any decline in their reserves.

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