The run of reviews of peated whiskies from sherry casks to end the month continues with this Talisker. It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Talisker—the last one was the Game of Thrones release which I wrote up just over a year ago. And it’s been a while since I’ve felt very positively about the distillery whose recent releases have been on the cynical side. The whisky I’m reviewing today, however, is a different story. Which is not to say that people felt very positive about all aspects of it when it was released either. It was part of Diageo’s Manager’s Choice series which featured not very old whiskies at very high prices. With hindsight that series probably set the tone for Diageo’s special release pricing in the decade that followed. Which is not to say that the whiskies released in it weren’t good. My first go at this one was at one of my friend Rich’s tastings—during which I made the decision to pay the most I’ve ever paid for a teenaged whisky. But I’m not reviewing that bottle right now—it’s still closed. I did go to open it but in the process discovered this sample which I acquired in the first swap I did with Rich more than seven years ago. It may even have been drawn from the bottle I got a taste of a few years later. Here are my notes.
Talisker 14, 1994, “Manager’s Choice” (58.6%; bodega sherry European oak cask; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Rich, meaty sherry with sweeter notes of pipe tobacco mixed in there. On the second sniff the salt starts expanding and the characteristic chilli pepper begins to emerge as well; some damp, musty earth as well. Underneath it all are some sweeter, fruity notes: orange peel, hints of cherry. Gets more leathery as it sits and a vegetal note, somewhere between oregano and pot, begins to emerge as well. Water takes it to another level as eveything unfurls a bit more and some softer creamy notes get mixed in as well.
Palate: Everything from the nose in one compressed package that begins to uncoil the moment it hits my tongue. Lovely, oily texture and very approachable at full strength. The salt is quite pronounced here. Ah, water is great for the palate as well: a big hit of preserved lime with spices (coriander seed, mustard seed), dried tangerine peel, damp earth.
Finish: Long. Nothing new develops but I’m not complaining. As on the palate with water with quite a bit of pepper now at the end.
Comments: This is as excellent as I thought it was at that tasting. The nose is just outstanding; the palate merely excellent. In many ways it reminds me of the 18 yo from the mid-late 2000s—with a bit more sherry and turned up to 11. Very glad I have a full bottle.
Rating: 91 points.
Thanks to Rich for the sample!