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. Continue reading
My third Game of Thrones whisky review is of the House Greyjoy release, a Talisker. I am posting it today in honour of the passing of Theon Greyjoy (spoiler alert!), one of the few interesting characters on Game of Thrones over the course of the series—the only others, in case you’re wondering, were/are Sansa Stark, Roose Bolton and Tywin and Jaime Lannister (I am happy to have an argument about this in the comments).
This is one of the few distillery/House matches this series got right. House Greyjoy rules the Iron Islands and Skye is an island, and both are on the west coast; plus the peaty austerity of Talisker fits well with the dour nature of the Iron Islanders. That’s where the similarities end though: Talisker usually makes highly enjoyable whisky whereas, Theon aside, the rape-Vikings of the Iron Islands are a huge drag both in the tv show and especially in the books where they—along with Ramsay Bolton—carry the weight of George R.R. Martin’s near-pornographic obsession with sexual violence and torture. Yes, we get it, George, real knights and ladies were assholes. Continue reading
Having posted a review of a release of the Bowmore 30, Sea Dragon on the occasion of the 6th anniversary of the blog yesterday, I may as well continue to further the illusion that I am the kind of whisky blogger who spends all his time drinking bottles of whisky from bygone eras. Here accordingly is a Talisker 8. Not the one that was part of Diageo’s Special Release slate for 2018 (did that one even come to the US?) but one that was released at some point in the 1970s. That would make it a late 1960s or early 1970s distillation and I don’t believe I’d previously had any Talisker from the 1960s or early 1970s. My friend Nick S. brought it to one of our mutual friend Rich H.’s tastings in St. Paul last November—a tasting that featured a number of other excellent whiskies including this Caol Ila 34, 1982, this Ben Nevis 27, 1990 and this “Speyside Region” 43, 1973, plus some others I haven’t written up yet. Nick was also kind enough to pour me a 1.5 oz sample at the end of the evening to spend a little more time with later. I was very excited to taste it at the initial gathering—the O.W.I (Online Whisky Illuminati) have trained us well to prize any and all whisky released in the 1970s—and I’m even more appreciative of the opportunity to taste it again when I can spend more time with it. Here now are my thoughts after spending more time with it. Continue reading
At the end of my review of the Brora 30, 5th release I noted that older Taliskers share that profile. Here now is an older Talisker. Diageo has released a number of these but as with the 25 yo, the 30 yo stopped being released at cask strength at the end of the last decade. The last Talisker 25 yo at cask strength came out in 2009 (I’ve reviewed it, and probably gave it a slightly low score), and the last Talisker 30 yo was released in 2010. I have a bottle of that 2010 release on my shelves—not sure why I’m waiting to open it. In the meantime I’ve reviewed the 2006 and 2012 releases. I liked both a lot and I’ll be surprised if I don’t like this one as well. Older Taliskers tend to be very much in line with the profiles of the 10 yo and the 18 yo, mellower than the one and more austere than the other. I’m not sure what the fate of the 30 yo is. It’s not part of the 2018 special release slate (which instead includes a much younger Talisker). Then again, they’d skipped 2016 as well and released one in 2017. In any event, I’m sure the next one, if there is one, will cost a lot more than this one did in Duty Free at Dublin airport in 2016 (where a friend went above and beyond to snag one for me; I’d been alerted by international whisky geek bat signal that it was on sale). Anyway, none of this preamble has been very interesting; let’s get to the whisky. Continue reading
About four and a half years ago K&L released a 5 yo Talisker—the so-called “Speakeasy”, bottled by Douglas Laing. It had a cool label design and the whisky inside was pretty decent, if nothing very special. A couple of years ago they released another young Talisker bottled by Douglas Laing, this one, from a sherry cask. It cost about $40 and I was sorely tempted to get one. Especially as in their tasting notes they said things like, “It’s loaded with equal parts salt, smoke, fruit, and sweet malt character with a spray of sea water on the finish”. But then I remembered that K&L’s tasting notes are mostly random word soups designed to make people want to buy whiskies and that if they match up with what’s in the bottle it is entirely by accident. Sometime later I had an opportunity to get a sample from a bottle split, and with a much lower financial risk at stake I gave it a go. Will I regret my skepticism and wish I’d bought a bottle? Let’s see. Continue reading
Let’s start the month with a timeIy review. I last reviewed a Talisker 10 in July 2014 when the blog was just over a year old. That review was of a bottle from 2009 but it sparked a long discussion in the comments about the decline of the Talisker 10 in the ensuing decade. The point of contention was the question of whether reports of the decline of classic Diageo malts can be separated from whisky geeks’ negative feelings about everything else Diageo has done in that period (the move to NAS, higher prices etc. etc.). I couldn’t make any comment then on whether the Talisker 10 has in fact declined in this decade because I hadn’t tasted any released in this decade. Well, it’s only taken me three and a half years but I now have a review of a bottle released in 2016. I opened it a couple of weeks ago for a tasting focused on peated whiskies for my local group. It placed last in terms of scores but most people liked it. I’m interested to get back into it for a review now that the bottle’s been open for a bit. Continue reading
As I said on Wednesday, our trip to Scotland was not centered on whisky. We spent most of our time out and about, on and by lochs, up and down hills, on beaches and roads, and inside and outside castles. But I’m not going to be posting about that stuff on the blog. What you’re going to get here is going to be strictly whisky and food, giving you the impression that the trip was in fact very whisky-centered. I’m going to start with Skye even though it wasn’t our first stop. Nor was Talisker the first distillery I visited in Scotland; but it was the first I toured. Continue reading
This was the first release of Talisker 25 that was not at cask strength. Of the cask strength versions I have previously reviewed the 2004 and 2009 editions and of the non-cask strength versions I have reviewed the 2012 edition. The 2012, I was sorry to say, did not match up at all to its cask strength predecessors. The complexity and depth and development of those whiskies was absent and nor was there much to separate it clearly from its younger siblings in the regular Talisker lineup. This, I am hoping and expecting, will be a different story. Hoping, because I purchased a full bottle; expecting, because Serge V. gave this a very high score when it came out and it did really well at my local group’s last tasting (I did not drink at that tasting myself as my nose and palate were completely knocked out at the time). Anyway, let’s be done with the suspense and get right to it. Continue reading
I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve not generally been a fan of Diageo’s “Distiller’s Edition” series which sees the standard expressions of their so-called “classic malts” finished for a period of a few months in some kind of wine cask or the other. Most of these are sherry finishes, but there are some exceptions (the Caol Ila 12 gets a moscatel finish and the Cragganmore 12 gets a port finish). The only one I’ve consistently liked a lot is the Lagavulin D.E, which is finished in sticky PX casks which play surprisingly well with the classic Lagavulin 16 notes. The Talisker D.E—finished in Amoroso sherry casks—I’ve been up and down on. I’ve liked some but with most have found the finish to cause the quintessential distillery character to regress to a sherried mean (which has also been my complaint with most of the others in the series).
At least that’s what I though it in my “younger” days as a whisky geek, when I was more inclined to religious positions in these matters. Let’s see what I make of it now (I haven’t had one of these in a while).
Both these Talisker 30 samples came from the same gathering as the Clynelish 17, Manager’s Dram and the Supernova 2014. (There are samples of some other monsters brought home as well from that evening that will be showing up here in the next few months.) These were my first tastes of Talisker 30 (I’ve had a bunch of the 25s and also the 35) and I’ve been looking forward to spending a little more time and concentration on them. The Talisker 30, like the 25 yo, is no longer at cask strength—the 2010 edition was the last at cask strength (I have a bottle in the stash but who knows when I’ll ever open it).
Our impression at the tasting was that the 2012 just didn’t have the depth of the 2006 (which was also my finding re the 2012 edition of the 25 yo vis a vis the CS 25s). It is also true that on that night we’d been drinking a lot of fairly high-powered whiskies before we got to the Talisker 30, 2012; so it’s possible it may have suffered for that reason. Well, let’s see what I make of the juxtaposition tonight. I’ll start with the lower abv. Continue reading
In my review yesterday of the Talisker 18 from 2007 I noted that I’d purchased that one for $49 in 2007 right before the price started climbing steadily. Well, in early 2012 when the average price for the Talisker 18 was at $80 or higher in the US a well-known store in Kentucky (which no longer ships) offered it at $59. Once again, I was an idiot and only got one bottle. It was right after this that the 18 yo disappeared briefly and then returned in new packaging with the shocking $140 price tag. I’ve not bought any since or tasted any Talisker 18 from 2012 or after, but am happy to report that this iteration from 2011 is pretty good.
Talisker 18 (45.8%; 2011 Release; from my own bottle)
Nose: More peat right off the bat than in the 2007 and it’s both more phenolic and more farmy (though not very phenolic or farmy per se). The fruit begins to emerge after a bit: it’s in the same family as the 2007 (apricot, orange peel) but less pronounced. A couple of minutes later there’s some struck matches and a fair bit of brine. The citrus gets a little brighter and stronger with time and eventually the apricot comes out much more strongly as well. A few drops of water and the fruit is even more to the fore. Continue reading
I purchased the bottle of Talisker 18 that this came from when I first moved to Minnesota in 2007. At the time it was available for $49.99 at a store in Minneapolis that was well-known for very low prices on a surprisingly decent selection of whisky. (Alas, in recent years that selection has shrunk and the prices have risen.) At the time I didn’t pay any attention to the doings of the industry or to prices in general and so failed to stock up big time. By the time I finished the last of the bottles I’d bought (this one) the Talisker 18 had become scarcer and its price had risen quite sharply (close to $80 in most markets). And then a couple of years ago Diageo dropped the boom on us by raising the price even more dramatically ($140 in most markets). As to whether this was due to dwindling older stock and/or because they want to premiumize 18 yo whisky (a la Macallan) while releasing more NAS whisky at prices that seem comparatively much cheaper but are much higher than they should be (see the new Storm, Dark Storm and Port Ruighe) I don’t know but I suspect the latter. At any rate, as much as I like the Talisker 18 I’m not about to pay $140 for it, and so I’m pleased to see recent signs that the price may be dropping (a sign possibly that lots of other consumers feel the same way). Continue reading
In yesterday’s review I noted that the Talisker 10 packs quite a punch at 45.8% and would likely be a monster at cask strength. Well, the Talisker 57 North is at 57%. It’s not a 10 yo, however. No age is noted but the rumour is that it is mostly 7 years old. Of course, as no age is noted the distillery can change the mix from batch to batch without having to change the label. This was originally available only in duty-free but can now be found in regular retail too (though not in the US). It may now be the only non-stratospherically priced official release at a high strength. As to whether that will last or this will give way to its NAS brethren at lower strengths remains to be seen.
This particular bottle is from 2013.
Talisker 57 North (57%; from my own bottle) Continue reading
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. Continue reading
After yesterday’s somewhat disappointing Talisker 25 from the 2012 release here is a very different beast altogether. Released in 2004 this is at 57.8% and is not very tame indeed. It was the star of our local group’s tasting of older whiskies this past February and I’ve been drinking the rest of the bottle down at a steady clip. Time to review it before it’s all gone. And speaking of “all gone”, until recently it was possible to find this in the US for less than $200–those days are probably also all gone.
The label says this was a release of 21,000 bottles filled from refill casks. What kind of refill casks is not specified, but from past experience I’d wager there’s a fair bit of refill sherry in here.
Talisker 25, 2004 Release (57.8%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Brine and dry smoke and the characteristic Talisker pepper make the first impression. There’s a touch of gunpowder as well, savoury and sweet, and below that some citrus begins to uncoil: salted limes and also some apricot. Gets saltier as it sits. And as it sits the smoke turns sweeter (vanilla) and more minerally as well. With water the citrus and salt become much stronger and the smoke and pepper recede. Continue reading
A few years ago Diageo downgraded the respected Talisker 25 from cask strength to 45.8% (the standard Talisker strength). As you can imagine this was not a popular move among whisky geeks, especially as the price did not go down in the process. (The same thing happened to the Caol Ila 25.) As to whether this is a short/medium-term thing to address shortages of matured stock and to save enough casks to mature further for super-premium releases such as the recent Talisker 28, 1985 “Maritime Edition”, I don’t know.
There’s not much uncertainty, however, about the cask strength editions from 2004-2009. I’ve reviewed the 2009 edition here, and my review of the 2004 will be coming very soon. I have not tried the others yet–I have closed bottles of the 2007 and 2008 and a large sample of the 2006 in reserve–but these have all been very well received (all with average scores of 89 points or higher on Whiskybase). The 2001 release, which was the first, I think, is far above my pay grade but if you have a bottle and might be interested in a sample swap, please get in touch. As far as I know, no Talisker 25 was released in 2002 or 2003, and 2010 was skipped as well before the release of the first non-cs version in 2011. Continue reading
This 5 yo Talisker is rather unusual. Both because it is very young and because it is almost as rare to see a Bengal tiger in the wild as it is to see an indie bottle of Talisker that is allowed to bear the distillery’s name. Dubbed “The Speakeasy” this is from the Laing warehouses and was bottled for K&L. I was unable to resist getting one for myself when they were announced. When I mentioned this on Twitter I was asked what on earth the appeal of this bottle could be and my response was that it was a combination of perverse curiosity and a desire to compare it with the Talisker 57 North, which is probably the youngest official Talisker. Frankly, I have no expectations of this whisky–I am a huge fan of Talisker and given how few opportunities we have to drink their malt the reasonable price on this made it hard for me to pass up.
I have a sentimental connection to this edition of the Talisker 25, as a generous group of friends made a surprise 40th birthday gift of it to me a few years ago. It was the first older Talisker I’d ever had and the first older whisky from which I began to get an inkling of the effect of the variable of time on whisky made in more or less a similar manner at the same distillery. There is a very clear family resemblance between the Talisker 10, the Talisker 18 and the Talisker 25s (with the 18 usually containing the most sherry influence) and the Talisker 25 in many ways tastes like a much older version of the 10 yo. This may seem like a somewhat obvious thing to say, but distilleries don’t always present similar profiles between their entry-level and older expressions (see my recent review of the Laphroaig 25, 2009 ed., for example, or see the vast difference between the now discontinued Springbank 10 and the richly sherried Springbank 18). Another way to put this might be to say that if you are looking for a refined older statesman, this is not the 25 yo whisky to buy—it is certainly more elegant than the 10 yo but is still rough around the edges in the Talisker manner.