This is a week of reviews of officially bottled Taliskers. Once upon a time, officially bottled Taliskers were pretty much the only kind there were; in recent years, however, some young casks have emerged from indie bottlers. But that is neither here nor there. The week began with a 9 yo distillery hand-fill from a “rejuvenated” red wine cask. I did not like it. I did not like it at all. Today’s whisky is one year older and is the classic 10 yo—a whisky that I once recommended without reservation to anyone looking for a reasonably priced single malt of good quality. This quality has slipped over time—see the transition from the 2009 release I reviewed in 2014 to the 2016 release that I reviewed in 2018—but the Talisker 10 has remained a solid malt. And the price too has remained reasonable—I got this for less than $50 in Minnesota (compare with the Springbank 10). Well, as I say that it remains a solid malt, I remember that it’s been a while since I last tried it. Today’s review is of a bottle from the 2021 release. I’m not sure when Diageo’s brain trust decided to mess with the label design but, as I noted on Twitter when I purchased this bottle last year, they’ve really hit it with the ugly stick. How about what’s inside? Let’s see.
Talisker 10, 2021 Release (45.8%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Well, that’s much better: sooty smoke, pepper and salt. As it sits, there’s some dried orange peel and some dried mushrooms as well. With more time still, the soot recedes a little and there’s a papery quality. With a touch of water the smoke recedes further still and a biscuity sweetness emerges.
Palate: Comes in as indicated by the nose with the smoke in the lead. A good drinking strength and decent texture. The pepper turns to chilli pepper here. A little more bitter on the second sip but nothing like Monday’s 9 yo—the bitter notes are more vegetal, not oak-driven. With more time, there’s some lime to go with the pepper and the soot. Okay, let’s add a drop or two of water. Less salt and less pepper now and more of the paper from the nose (like licking an envelope) along with some malty sweetness.
Finish: Long. The smoke remains on top with the chilli pepper below it. The salt rises up as it fades and has the last word. Less salt here too with water but the smoke and pepper still rise up here.
Comments: Very much in line with the general profile as expressed in the 2009 and 2016 releases I’ve previously reviewed. But if the 2016 didn’t have the depth or richness of the 2009, this one is a tad simpler still. Still a very pleasant whisky, and not one I would ever turn down, but some distance from the excellent Talisker 10 of old. On the other hand, it’s a greater distance still from the recent distillery hand-fill that I found all but undrinkable.
Rating: 84 points.
I have a similar vintage at home and I’m disappointed by it. Every time I have it it always seems to leave some vague hints of what I recognise as the great whisky I used to love. I’ve had the same impression whether I have it on its own or with other whiskies (it came out very unfavourably against the Ardbeg 10 and an indie Caol Ila for example).
Same with the 18. I had it recenty at a blind tasting and was very surprised at the reveal because in my mind I held the 18 as the whisky that started it all when I first had it in 2005. Of course it’s hard to tell how much of it is me and how much is the whisky, but a recent Special Release impressed me (easily a 90 in my book), so I’m officially joining the ‘it ain’t what it used to be’ club.