Let’s finish the month with one more peated whisky, but let’s get off the island of Islay for at least one day. We’ll go up north to Skye, to Talisker and an unusual independent bottling. Unusual, not because I know something about this particular release but because independently bottled Talisker is not very common—though it’s relatively more common of late than it once used to be. I think this was part of K&L’s cache of 2021 casks. It’s twice the age of the two previous K&L Talisker releases I’ve reviewed, which were 5 and 6 years of age respectively. Add the fact that it’s from a refill hogshead and I am positively looking forward to this one. Let’s get right to it.
Talisker 11, 2009 (59.6%; Old Particular for K&L; refill hogshead; from a bottle split)
Nose: Mild notes of lemon and malted wheat with some light mineral smoke running through it. Sweeter with each sniff and then more savoury (ham brine). With time the lemon turns to citronella. A bit of water brings the salt out here as well and push the lemon back. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
Following Monday’s review of a bottle from the first-ever release of the Talisker 18 in 2004, let’s continue Talisker week with another from the distillery’s core range. The Talisker Distillers Edition—like all Diageo’s Distillers Edition releases—is the distillery’s entry-level age-stated malt—in this case the 10 yo—finished for a few months in sherry or wine casks—in this case, Amoroso sherry casks. As I’ve noted before, the only one of these I’ve consistently liked is the Lagavulin Distillers Edition. In most of the others the finish has not in my view tended to add very much that’s compelling to the base malt; though I suppose it is always good to have some variation. Such was my view of the only other Talisker Distillers Edition I’ve reviewed—the 2011 release. This one is from four years later. Will it be appreciably different? And will it make me curious enough about more recent releases to seek them out? Let’s see. Continue reading →
When we arrived in Minnesota in 2007 I fortuitously happened on Chicago-Lake Liquors while visiting the Midtown Global Market across the street. Chicago-Lake’s large collection of single malt whisky at minimal markups had a lot to do with my rapidly accelerating whisky mania at the time. Alas, those days are long gone—Chicago-Lake is still around but the selection shrank and the prices rose quite a few years ago. I will always be grateful to the owners of the store though for making it possible for me to try so many excellent official releases at such reasonable prices. These included the Laphroaig 15 for $40, the Glenlivet Nadurra for $55, Springbank 15 for about $65, the Highland Park 18 for $80 and, yes, the Talisker 18 for all of $50. The Talisker 18 had only just been introduced a few years ago and had recently been named the best whisky in the world by some publication or the other. And so I was very happy to try it. I loved it right away and for a good few years bought it regularly from Chicago-Lake. Elsewhere the price was higher—$80’ish—but that paled in comparison to the price hike around 2012 or so when it shot up to $140. Alas, I had not had the foresight to stock up on a case or two and so the memories of the early releases were soon all I had left of them. Thus when the chance recently presented itself to acquire a bottle of the 2004 release I jumped at it. I was curious to see what I would make of it now. I’d liked the 2011 release but not thought it very special; the 2007 release I’d liked a lot more. Would this one live up to my memory of it? Well, I’m very glad to say it does. Continue reading →
Peat Week continues. On Monday I reviewed a 23 yo Ledaig bottled under the Old Malt Cask label for K&L in California. I quite liked that one—a mellower take on the usually brash Ledaig profile. Today I have a review of a whisky less than half the age of that one, distilled on another island in the Inner Hebrides, this time Skye. And it’s something you don’t see every day: an independent release of Talisker that bears the name of the distillery openly on the label. Or at least you didn’t used to see it openly back in the day—has Diageo loosened things up a bit now? This was distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2020 under the Old Particular label, which like OMC, is owned by one or the other of the Laing outfits. It is from a single refill hogshead and so it’s an opportunity to try a 10 yo Talisker that should be somewhat different from the distillery’s standard-bearer 10 yo, which has at least some sherry component. Let’s see what it’s like. Continue reading →
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 →
The Claymore was our fourth restaurant meal on Skye. We’d previously eaten at the Oyster Shed in Carbost, Cuchullin in Portree and Creelers in Broadford. Claymore is also in Broadford, more or less just down the hill from Creelers. We very much enjoyed all those other meals and were hoping to eat more excellent seafood at the Claymore. We were also hoping that we’d be lucky and manage to get a table. The Claymore does not take reservations and their website encourages people to not call for one (it’s also not clear from the website if the restaurant’s name is just Claymore or the Claymore Restaurant). Well, we got the last free table when we arrived at about 6.30. We couldn’t get a table in their bright, main dining room with a view of the bay; but with everyone after us being either turned away or being told to wait for 30-45 minutes, we had no complaints. And when the food arrived we had no complaints on that front either. Continue reading →
We only spent one full day on Skye—a fact that I sorely regret. But it was a very good day. We spent the morning at the so-called Fairy Glens up near Uig. Their location is a bit hard to get a fix on but and the last bit of the drive, on a very hilly one-track road with quite a bit of traffic, is not fun, but this was one of our favourite outings in Scotland. And we lucked into a bright sunny morning to boot. We decided to eat lunch in Portree before heading to Dunvegan Castle in the afternoon and it began to rain as we made our way there. We parked in the central square in Portree. None of the parking machines seemed to be working but everyone seemed to be parking anyway and we took a chance (and happily didn’t get a ticket). As the rain was picking up we went into the first restaurant that caught our eye, Cuchullin. And we didn’t regret it. Here is a quick report on our lunch followed by a quick plug for the b&b we stayed at in Broadford, Hillview, and especially their breakfasts. Continue reading →
We noticed Creelers out of the corner of our eyes while trying to find our b&b in Broadford. It didn’t look like much but when time came for dinner on our first night on Skye, it was conveniently close at hand. Lunch had been at the Oyster Shed in Carbost, and after touring Talisker we’d driven aimlessly for a good while and didn’t want to drive again after dinner. (I can recommend the drive from Broadford to Armdale highly; though I suggest that if, like us, you stop your car in random places to walk down to the shore, you take care, unlike us, to not step into what turns out to be very soggy terrain.) Having learned our lesson in Drumnadrochit, we’d made reservations for dinner. Continue reading →
In my review of my tour at Talisker I said that the best reason to go to Carbost on Skye was not to visit Talisker but to eat at the Oyster Shed on the hill above the distillery. This is the rare statement that is both hyperbolic and true. Hyperbolic because I know that for any whisky geek who has not already been to Talisker, going to Talisker is the main reason to go to Skye period, no matter what anyone says; true because, well, it’s true. It’s just a large shed a mile past and above the distillery; the seafood it serves up is simple and straightforward, but it’s pristine and eating it outdoors with a view of the hills and the loch is heaven. 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 →