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.
Having recently listed Talisker as one of my very favourite distilleries, I felt it was time to review one of their whiskies for the blog. And as I am all about untimely reviews, here is my take on this special vatting released to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the distillery in 2005.
I have to say that I do feel a little odd about listing Talisker as one of my five favourite distilleries (Laphroaig, Bowmore, Highland Park and Springbank are the others in my current top five). This because I’ve not really had very many Taliskers. There are almost no recent independent bottlings of Talisker around, and once you get out of the regular official rotation Talisker gets pretty expensive pretty fast. I’ve had a number of the 10 yo and 18 yo releases (though I can’t say I’ve noticed much variation over time), a couple of the Distiller’s Editions (which I am not crazy about), the cask strength 57 North, a few of the 25 yo’s and that’s pretty much it. (I have a 30 yo in reserve for a special occasion and a sample of the Manager’s Choice that I received in a swap.)