Talisker is a distillery that has fascinated me quite a bit over the last year, primarily due to its location on the exceptionally beautiful Isle of Skye as well as the rather interesting flavour profile of the whiskies that they produce.
It is also very much a distillery that I intend to visit sometime in the hopefully near future as part of a much larger distillery touring programme (I’m actually contemplating anywhere up to 35 distilleries in the space of 3 weeks, so this trip would require some rather comprehensive planning).
In terms of the distillery itself, it was founded in 1830 by brothers Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill in the town of Carbost and underwent a succession of ownership changes before being bought by the legendary Distillers Company Limited (DCL) in 1916.
DCL itself has undergone a succession of mergers and changes and these days is better known as being a part of spirits behemoth, Diageo, which is the largest distillery owner and operator in the world.
Talisker distillery has the capacity to produce up to 2.7 million litres of pure alcohol on an annual basis and while the barley used in the whisky production has a phenol specification of between 18-20 ppm, the resulting phenol specification in the new make spirit is much lower at between 5-7 ppm.
This makes the whisky from the distillery considerably less peated than the produce from sister distilleries Caol Ila and Lagavulin, but it doesn’t diminish its importance in any way whatsoever.
As with most distilleries founded in industrial times, the primary focus of the whisky produced at Talisker would be for blending purposes and Talisker is a core component of the best selling blended Scotch whisky in the world, Johnnie Walker Black Label.
However, Diageo knows that Talisker’s unique flavour profile makes it a rather special whisky and have sought to capitalise on it by bottling increasingly larger amounts of it as a single malt.
Interestingly enough, Talisker is highly regarded in Japan where it is commonly featured as part of a Highball (Scotch or Japanese whisky mixed with carbonated water and sometimes ice) due to its unique flavour profile and has even been deconstructed into its base flavours by experimental mixologist extraordinaire, Ryan Chetiyawardena.
While Talisker remains the only distillery on Skye, there are plans being put in place to build another distillery on the isle by the name of Torabhaig, which is also located in the area bearing the same name as the distillery. The hope is that the distillery will be completed and ready for its first spirit run by the end of 2016.
Today’s review focuses on the youngest of the age statemented offerings from the distillery, Talisker 10 Years Old. Interestingly enough, most of the distillery bottlings that are not at cask strength are usually reduced down to an unconventional abv of 45.8% before bottling.
So, let’s get on with the review, shall we?
Talisker 10 Years Old (45.8%)
Colour: Deep gold
Nose: Initial entry presents a rather dense and smoky aroma which is inversely proportional with the low ppm of this malt (NOTE: the lower the ppm of a peated whisky, the smokier it is and vice versa). Some cracked black pepper just below the smoke.
With time, the nose opens up to reveal citrus fruits (orangea and lemons in particular) as well as red apples. There is a nice coastal briny note on the edge of the nose and a savoury element that reminds one of smoked fish. Very fresh, sweet and malty nose and definitely enticing. (22/25)
Palate: Malty, sweet and quite smoky on the palate, but not obtrusively so. In fact, the smoke feels rather sophisticated and intermingles very well with the citrus notes detected on the nose as well as the red apples.
The citrus note is quickly followed by red chilies and cracked black pepper, which bring a good level of heat to the proceedings. As the heat subsides, the coastal briny notes make an appearance and intermingles with the citrus notes and red apples to give the palate a sweet-salty feel with a nice dollop of smoke in the background. Very moreish. (22/25)
Finish: Relatively long finish with the citrus following through to the very end alongside the black pepper and malty nature of this dram. The smoke has been reduced to faint whisps which add character to the finish and works very well alongside the sweetness of the malt. Very good stuff! (21/25)
Balance: Quite well balanced overall, with the sweet, smoky, spicy and salty working relatively well with one another and no detectable off notes. The standard abv of 45.8% works very well for this dram and it actually tastes much better now than I remember when I first tried it some years ago. (21/25)
I actually enjoyed this dram much more now than back in 2012 when I purchased a bottle of it at Duty Free. I previously found it somewhat inaccessible and with more of a spicy-smoky note rather than the citrus notes that I detected this time round.
It probably is the consequence of my palate being far more seasoned now than it was back then and I am quite glad that I have tried this beauty again after so long as it is exceptionally good. I will definitely have to source for a bottle of this for everyday drinking purposes and I believe that it presents a more accessible way for novices to get into smoky whiskies.
Talisker 10 Years Old can be found at Master of Malt for £28.57, which is an absolute steal if you are living in Europe. For those living in other countries, the shipping costs might be a big enough deterrent for you to source for it at your local bottle store so please do that instead.
Until the next review, have a great week ahead.