One of the continual joys of my rambling path through the whisky world is that there are still distilleries that I have not had any real experience of, these new discoveries are what keeps me going.
Never will I try them all, or know it all – such is the way of whisky.
Until a couple of years ago Talisker was one such distillery for me. Sampling the 2018 Special Releases 8 year old (more on this here) really brought my attention to the blind spot that was the distillery located on the Isle of Skye.
I’ve read several articles recently that mention that Talisker is not what it once was, but in reality is any malt? Even nostalgia is not what it once was…
Rose tinted glasses off and nosing glasses out, time to take a look at the youngest and oldest expressions of the Talisker range.
Talisker 10, OB, 45.8%abv, from my collection, (available here)
The Talisker 10 expression rose to prominence as part of the Classic Malts of Scotland collection and currently retails for around £40.
The nose has a distant peaty tang and a prominent coastal bouquet. There is a clump of wet sand and some crisp green apple among it all, along with some faint biscuity notes and a few green olives in brine.
The palate is tangy with a juxtaposition of salt and pepper. There are a few tart red berries and a little blood orange. Soft highland style peat is woven through which is woody and dry in style rather than the phenolic Islay peat.
The finish has a big twist of pepper, with tannic touches, lingering woodsmoke and olive oil.
A solid expression and now probably vies with Lagavulin as my favourite core Diageo owned distillery expression (After Clynelish of course)
It is also my current favourite Scotch to use in a Highball.
Now for something a touch older.
Talisker Bodega Series, 41yo, 1978, 50.7%abv, sample from a friend (available here)
This was the second release in the Bodega Series which saw a 40 year old expression released in the preceding year.
The whisky has been matured in refill American oak casks before being finished in Manzanilla Sherry casks. Each cask was apparently over 100 years old (which makes them ex-bodega casks, rather than just sherry seasoned casks) from Jerez’s highly regarded Delgado Zuleta Bodega.
The nose is a miscellany of old wood, polishes and varnishes, dried seaweed, faint cured meats and soft sea spray. There is a slightly musty (not in a bad way) vanilla element, perhaps somewhat yeasty or flor like. There is minimal peat here, just the faintest wisps.
The palate is much more coastal in presentation, retaining its undertones of old wood but now there’s a perceptible dollop of heather honey and a moreish zingy minerality / saline interplay. Not massively peaty, it is more of a peaty water kind of influence – not that I’m inferring that peaty water comes through in distillation as that is a myth – if you’ve ever had spring water from near to a peat source you will know what I mean. There is a slightly funky note here perhaps earthy and yeasty, coupled with a delicious oily mouthfeel.
The finish continues with dominant briny / wood elements but adds salty and crisp green apples and a sprinkle of spices before leaving a lingering, tongue prickling peppery note.
There is definitely some Manzanilla representation in the finished dram, you really get a sense of the mineral and salty notes (Manzanila sherry is matured near to the Spanish coast and is renowned for strong maritime influences) that are usually dominant in such wines. I have tried the specific sherry produced in such casks and can confirm it is a powerhouse of a Manzanilla with incredibly punchy and potent flavours.
Always a strange one to see an older whisky being given a short finish but with the intersection of the flavour profiles I’d argue this one makes sense and is indeed an endeavour worth pursuing.
Another thing that I picked out was a funky coastal farmyard feeling fleetingly reminiscent of 1970’s era Brora. I’m led to believe that for a few years in the 70’s Brora distillery used barley identical to Taliskers peated specification (Brora Distillery being used to produce spirit to fulfil various blending needs during its latter years) and whilst the profile isn’t identical the coastal and mildly funky familiarity is there, just for a few moments.
You can find more of my tasting notes in the Amateur Drammers Archives.
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