Okay, let’s do a week of official Taliskers (still pretty much the only kind there are). When I first got into single malt whisky, there wasn’t much Talisker about. Really just the 10 yo and the Distillers Edition. This was in the early 2000s. The 18 yo was introduced in 2004 and that’s also when the 25 yo became a regular annual release (the first one had been released in 2001). The 30 yo came along a few years after that. With both the 25 yo and the 30 yo in the special release category, it was really the 10 yo and the 18 yo that carried the distillery’s flag through the 2000s and into the early 2010s. Even without the excellent 25 and 30 year olds taken into account, the distillery’s batting average was pretty high. In the decade and a half since, the official releases have proliferated somewhat. You might say that’s a good thing: the more Talisker, the better. I would have said the same if this expanded range were more to my taste but I’m afraid I don’t have a very high opinion of the newer NAS releases. Well, the Talisker that leads off this week is not NAS—it’s a 9 yo (though no vintage is mentioned). And it’s not a wide release, being a cask that was available last year to be filled by hand at the distillery. The source of my bottle split filled it in late October (along with the Oban, Lochnagar and Dalwhinnie I reviewed in December). It’s from a “rejuvenated” red wine cask, which means that there are two things about it that scare me. Let’s see if it allays my fears.
Talisker 9, Distillery Hand-Fill, October 2022 (59.8%; rejuvenated red wine cask; from a bottle split)
Nose: A somewhat indistinct blend of wine and smoke at first; the wine, sweet and the smoke, slightly rubbery. Pepper emerges after a bit along with some char; the sweet notes sit alongside, not quite integrated. The char/smoke gets more bitter as it sits. With a few drops of water the sour and bitter notes back off a bit and some salt emerges. A few more drops and now the salt becomes the top note with some of that chilli pepper in the background.
Palate: Comes in with bitter oak extract leading the way, followed by sour red wine notes. Quite hot at full strength; decent texture (but I’d be fine if this coated my tongue a little bit less…). Not much change on the second sip. I’ll give it some air but I think it really needs water. Yes, time and air do nothing good for it—the sourness expands to match the bitterness. Let’s hope water can salvage it otherwise this is going to be a chore to finish. Well, as on the nose, it does push the bitterness back a bit, making it just about palatable. I think it needs a bit more. Yes, with a few more drops it’s now drinkable, though there’s still not very much to recommend it.
Finish: Long. The bitter notes dominate here as well, becoming even stronger before eventually fading. As on the nose and palate with water, though it’s still quite bitter here.
Comments: I think I would have been able to resist but I’m glad anyway that I was not in a position to be tempted to pay £120 for this. I remember there was someone in the early days of the blog who was disappointed in the fact that most of my scores were in the 85-89 point band. If you’re still reading, I hope this will make you happy. Not the best start to Talisker week.
Rating: 70 points. (Pulled up with water.)
I’m a huge Talisker fanboy, and this was probably the only one that disappointed me as well. I had two other red wine and Islay combos ( Bunna, Caol Ila)…I hate to generalize and write off that red wine and Islay don’t mix, but it is suspicious. ( although I guess technically, this is an Islander not Islay…but close enough )
Of the 15 ratings currently on Whiskybase, 13 range from 85 points to 92! There really is no accounting for taste. Or maybe some people have bottles they’re looking to sell on the secondary market.