Talisker Week began with the very first release of the Talisker 18 from 2004 and continued with the 2015 release of the Distillers Edition. Let’s now close it out with a 20 yo. This was released in 2003 and was put together from a number of ex-bourbon casks distilled in 1982, for a total of 12,000 bottles released worldwide. This came a year after (I think) another 20 yo from sherry casks from the 1981 vintage. That sherry cask release has divided whisky geeks who’ve had it. Some utterly love it, some find it marred by sulphur. The bourbon cask edition, however, I don’t think I’ve ever read any complaints about. It’s about as quintessential modern-era Talisker as you could hope for. Indeed, I wonder if this release didn’t inspire the 18 yo that became a part of the distillery’s core lineup the following year. I would not be surprised to learn that the vatting for that first 18 yo drew on casks that went into this 20 yo—after all, in the early 2000s it was still common for official releases to contain spirit older than the age on the label. At any rate, as I am currently drinking both side by side I find many points of similarity; the major difference being abv and that the 18 yo has some fraction of ex-sherry casks in it as well. Alright, let’s get to it.
Talisker 20, 1982 (58.8%; refill bourbon casks; from my own bottle)
Nose: Honey, mild peppery peat, that very Talisker chilli pepper. On the second sniff there’s the same papery note from the 18 yo from 2004 and salted pistachio shells. Gets richer and sweeter as it sits with some apricot and mild notes of butterscotch.; some oak too now in the background. A few drops of water accentuate the softer notes and pull out some citronella as well.
Palate: Comes in peppery off the top—freshly cracked black peppercorns—with some lemon joining the honey below. A big bite at full strength (no doubt accentuated by the pepper) and a rich texture. The pepper is a bit more bitter with each sip (picking up some char). With time the honey expands just a bit (more honeycomb than honey, really) and the salt emerges here as well. The pepper is still the top note. Ah yes, with water it opens up nicely here as well with all the sweeter and softer stuff from the nose showing up.
Finish: Long. The peppery peat keeps going with the salt emerging at the end. As on the palate with water.
Comments: To repeat myself, this is a very clear sibling of the first 18 yo released a year later. Very austere at first, especially on the palate, before opening up with time and water. Really a lovely whisky that shows what the combination of refill oak, an excellent, idiosyncratic distillate and time can do.
Rating: 91 points.