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September 30, 2023 (edited October 11, 2023)
4.25 out of 5 stars
Talisker Distiller’s Edition
Continuing to work through whiskies in my collection that I’ve not yet reviewed. I’ve had various Talisker expressions many times over the years—it was one of the first single malts I enjoyed over two decades ago—and again I’m surprised that I’ve yet to review any of them. The four listed above are the ones I currently own. I recall not liking the Storm as much the last time I tried it, and also recall liking the 10-year a bit more than the Distiller’s Edition and the 18-year. On the whole, Talisker has been one of my favorite distillers, not only from my history but also on what I feel to be its own merits.
Rich, bold amber color, akin to Pantone 130. The nose shows sweet honey, apricot, smoky peat, iodine, and salt. There is an immediate spiciness on the palate, with a sweet undernote, and a slightly viscous mouthfeel. The finish is long, and shows a healthy amount of continued white-pepper spiciness, quickly transitioning to some iodine and plenty of smoke, which begins as a smoky peat but also shows char on the long finish.
I like the Storm better than I recall. I believe that my prior not-quite-dislike was due to an incorrect belief that it was finished with added wood, like the added staves used by Maker’s Mark in their wood-finished series. At the time, I viewed this negatively, as I was influenced by the use of wood chips by some California wineries, which was viewed as “cheap.” Maker’s Mark has been able to pull off a small miracle with their wood-finished series, which does use added staves, but I have no information that Talisker Storm employs that approach regardless.
Talisker Storm is a nice balance of sweetness and smoke. It currently retails for a little over $50. Would I buy it again? Yes, if for no other reason to complement the 10-year. 4.0 on the Distiller scale.
NAS. The light color suggests that there is no coloring added, though neither the bottle nor website mention this. 45.8% ABV.
Color is a few shades darker than the Storm; burnt orange, near Pantone 138. The nose is more effusive than the Storm, with an added fruity intensity, showing light honey, some lemon custard, dates, clove, ocean salt, smoky peat, and even a Laphroaig-like Band-Aid aspect. Again, there is a gentle palate viscosity, and added intensity, and an almost-acidic citrus element. The finish lacks the Storm’s length, with lighter smokiness, and also shows a touch of sweet vanilla and orange bitters.
I’ve noted in several reviews my distaste for the relatively low ABV in some whiskies; 40% ABV is the minimum allowed, and several distillers bottle at 43%. The higher ABV in each of these Talisker impressions is not only appreciated in terms of a (perceived) focus on craftsmanship vs. economics, but it also amplifies the complex flavors. Talisker 10 is available for around $60 retail. Would I buy it again? Unequivocally. 4.0 on the Distiller scale.
Talisker Distiller’s Edition
The Distiller’s Edition is darker still than the 10-year, due to the sherry-cask aging; clear Pantone 153. Wonderfully complex nose shows chocolate-covered cherries, bacon jam, a whiff of cool menthol, and evident vanilla, which suppresses (but does not eliminate) the smoky peat of the 10-year. The palate has a little glycerin, honey, dried orange peel, liquified pralines, and Honey-Nut Cheerios. A gentle spiciness leads to a slightly smoky peat, some leather dryness, and a cereal note.
The Distiller’s Edition combination of peat and sweet is a kinder, gentler version of an Ardbeg Uigeadail or Corryvreckan, and it reminds me of a story. A few years ago, a friend who was not a whisky enthusiast took me to Milroy’s in London’s SoHo. In order, we had a 60.4% ABV Chichibu bottled exclusively for Milroy’s; a Glenfarclas 24, also for Milroy’s; a Hibiki 21; a Nikka Pure Malt 21; a Glendronach 25; and then the Ardbeg Corry, as I’d wanted him to experience a sweet-peat whisky. It was a mistake, and was entirely incongruous with those that preceded it, rendering the Corry (which I like) offputting. In fact, I may have disabused him of any appreciation of peated whisky as a result (the upside of that is one less purchasing competitor). In hindsight, the Talisker Distiller’s Edition would have been more appropriate, as it shows the same sweet and smoke in a more restrained manner. Would I buy the Talisker Distiller’s Edition again? Yes. 4.25 on the Distiller scale.
Diageo’s “Distiller’s Editions” employ additional aging in sherry casks. The Talisker in particular takes the 10-year expression which is then double-matured in Amoroso casks. 45.8% ABV. This bottle distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2019.
The 18-year is lighter in color than the Distiller’s Edition, but darker than the 10-year, which one would expect with eight years of additional age; clear Pantone 144. The nose is sweet, with brown sugar and vanilla, gentle and creamy lemon custard, and very gentle peat smoke. The palate is sweet, but a different sweetness than the Distiller’s Edition: honey, crème brulee, and even a little bananas Foster. The finish is white pepper, which lingers long, as well as some smokiness manifesting as bacon. The peat is there, but it pales in comparison to the Storm (which I tasted again immediately following this).
Talisker 18 is a special whisky, and can be found for about $180. For me, it’s more of a special occasion dram. It needs to be appreciated for what it is: an aged whisky from the Isle of Skye which shows the power of the ocean with the finesse of 18 years of aging. Would I buy it again? As long as I had the discretionary income, yes. 4.25 on the Distiller scale.
45.8% ABV, consistent with the other Talisker expressions here.
I enjoy writing these “showdown” reviews, but the intent is not necessarily to rank order them, but rather to compare similar whiskies side-by-side in order to better delineate their respective differences and merits (or lack thereof). The general pattern here, from first to last, is decreasing smokiness and increasing complexity. And while my qualitative quantification of scores varies, this is not to state that any of these are intrinsically “better” than any of the others; all are good, but they have differing qualities. I would keep each one on hand.
Talisker has a loyal following, and there’s not much I can add to the opinions of those who already enjoy it (I am among that group). The Storm is about smoky peat; the “Storm” naming is apt. The 10-year is about the added complexity of a 10-year age statement (and the “softening” of the smoke). The Distiller’s Edition is about the added sweetness of sherry-cask finishing, and its complex interplay with the peaty smoke. The 18 is about the added complexity of additional aging. With additional age comes less ostentatiousness, and thus more introspection; and on a pensive and cloudy day interspersed with rain, I find that the 18 is the most intellectually rewarding. On the whole, these are very good in the aggregate, but not quite as good as I’d recalled.
N.B.: All spirits tasted neat in a Glencairn glass.
Nose: Caramel, campfire, peat, smoked meats
Nose after swirl: Much deeper BBQ notes. Smoked brown sugar, peat.
Nose after water drop: Over-peppered BBQ
Palate: Thick mouthfeel... like youve swallowed essential oils. Caramel, peat, earthy, almost medicinal, mesquite BBQ, burnt tips,
Palate after water drop: much more natural earthiness, deeper smoked peat, leather, peppercorn.
Finish: loooong, earthy, dark, peaty, deep sweetness.