“Made by the Sea”
Talisker is a Diageo staple. You will find the classic 10 year old in many many bars around the world, providing a consistent and reliable experience for the thirsty scotch drinker. It was one of the 6 original ‘Classic Malts of Scotland’, a range brought in by United Distillers in the late 80’s to showcase regional differences in Scotch Whisky production. It does a little bit of everything, there’s the moderate peat, the spicy chilli kick, a little sweetness and the potential for wonderful coastal aromas. You can understand why they chose it and it ticks all the boxes for an “island” style. The distillery puts out quite a large range of both NAS and age stated official releases, unfortunately most don’t state whether they are coloured or chill filtered, leaving us the only option of assuming they are. Where the presentation is always solid is the bottling strength, with 45.8% being the default and some others going full cask strength. I don’t remember seeing a modern Talisker bottle at lower strength, which has to be something to celebrate. It’s also the distillery that put out my favourite release from the last couple of years, the 8 year old from the 2018 Special Releases. It’s an utterly enchanting whisky that transports you to the top of the Cuillin ridge on Skye, breathing in the salty Atlantic air.
I won’t provide a comprehensive account of the distillery’s history and production, this isn’t the place and I have neither the knowledge, time nor inclination to do so. It is however worth noting a few things that make Talisker stand out from the crowd. It’s a relatively old distillery, established in 1830 and bought by John Walker and Sons and John Dewar and Sons in 1916. They still use worm tubs, a feature we explored last year in our worm tubs tasting. This helps create a meatier new make, which should in theory, stand up well to ageing or particularly active casks. The stills are also unique with an upside down u-bend inbetween the lyne arm and condensor, supposedly the piece of the puzzle that creates the chilli note found in so many Talisker expressions. A final point worth mentioning is the use of Amoroso Sherry casks for the finishing period of the Distillers Edition. These are fairly unique and have a very distinctive effect. Amoroso Sherry is effectively a cream Sherry, sweetened with a touch of Pedro Ximinez.
Given how many people within the club fell in love with the 8yo Special Releases expression, it was only going to be a matter of time before we put on some kind of event centred on this iconic distillery. Luckily for us, Talisker’s brand ambassador JC (or @drinks_geek on Instagram) agreed to host the evening and talk us through an excellent line up. This wasn’t just your bog standard range, we had the last two years special releases, the 18 and 25, a distillery exclusive and some new make to try alongside the classic 10. I think everyone there appreciated the quality of the lineup, so a huge thank you to JC for making that happen.
The location was once again The Tappit Hen near Bank, one of the clubs regular haunts and a fantastic venue who always look after us extremely well. We were sold out for the night with 22 eager whisky folk in attendance. It was great to welcome some more new faces into the club, with David, Justin, James and Paul joining us for the first time. As mentioned earlier our host for the evening was JC and he kicked things off with new make spirit, fresh off the still. This was a fascinating window into the soul of Talisker and certainly packed a punch undiluted at 70.8% ABV. It was a lovely mix of sweet and spice with many of the notes recognisable from the matured expressions. Next up was the 10 year old, a whisky that will be very familiar to most people reading this and the perfect segue to bridge between the new make and the 15 year old Special Releases from 2019. The 15 was a favourite for many in the group and offered a real step up in quality from the 10, with notes of tropical fruits, spearmint and gentle oak. Next came the Distillers Edition finished in those Amoroso casks. This got a mixed reception but certainly had some nice chocolatey and dark cherry notes on the back end. We then moved on to the 18, another popular whisky within the group and a personal favourite of mine. It’s mature, interesting and full of lovely coastal aromas, and at around £80 it’s good value in today’s market. From the 18 we stepped up again to the 25 and this is when the years in cask really started to assert themselves. The oak driven flavours became more prominent and if anything, this felt like the big brother to the 15yo, lovely stuff. After the 25 year old we rolled back the age statement and tried the distillery exclusive, a NAS expression using 3 different cask types. A tasty dram benefitting from a slightly higher proof (48% ABV) but I don’t think many chose it as their dram of the night. We finished off formalities with the 8 year old from the 2018 special releases (generously added to the line up by James, @thewhiskybarrista). As I mentioned earlier this is one of my favourite whiskies from the last couple of years and was my personal favourite on the night. It’s rich, powerful and coastal, a perfect example of what Talisker is capable of. Nom.
- New Make Distillate 70.9%
- 10 Year Old 45.8%
- 15 Year Old ‘Special Releases’ 53.7%
- Distillers Edition 45.8%
- 18 Year Old 45.8%
- 25 Year Old 45.8%
- Distillery Exclusive 48%
- 8 Year Old ‘Special Releases’ 59.4%
At the end of the evening the usual happened, people reached into their bags and kept things going with generous bottle/sample sharing. We saw the Cladach make an appearance along with more Talisker from Hunter Laing, an SMWS Strathmill, the latest Smögen release and a cask strength, bourbon matured Aberlour amongst others.
Thanks to everyone who came along and made it another great evening. The club only works, and offers the experience it does, because of the people that attend and those that put in the time behind the scenes. It’s a lovely thing to be a part of and I remain ever grateful that I get to share my time with such genuinely nice people.