Talisker “Storm” (45.8%, OB, 2013)

Time for another Talisker, and quite a controversial one. Talisker have a very competitive 10yo on offer. One that did change over time. Just compare recent ones to those of ten years ago or twenty, or thirty… Nevertheless, it’s always good and always affordable. Then the time arrived for the NAS expressions, and for Talisker, this Storm was one of the first, and certainly the first that got some big marketing behind it. I remember you could go to your local Port where you could get a dram of “Storm” for free and whilst you were trying it, they aimed their wind-machine at you and threw buckets of water in your face. Talisker is probably the biggest Single Malt brand Diageo own, so a lot seems to be riding on this.

When in 2013 “Storm” arrived, as did “Dark Storm” in travel retail and The Port finished “Port Ruighe”, fans of Talisker were fearing for their beloved 10yo. Surely it would be discontinued? But the faithful 10yo soldiered on. In 2015 Talisker “Skye” arrived, yet another NAS offering, again priced slightly above the 10yo. Are they now going to kill off the 10yo? Nope, it’s still around, although I do still fear for it a bit, and occasionally buy the odd 10yo that is even  on sale quite often. Quite strange, considering discontinuing it would be caused by scarcity. Nevermind.

Earlier I reviewed ‘Neist Point”, a travel retail expression that wasn’t very cheap in some markets. Out came a rant against NAS, but I finished the bottle rather quickly and I have to say I liked it a lot, although a bit overpriced.  “Storm” got a lot of heat from Whisky-drinkers for being more expensive than the 10yo and definitely worse overall. Some even called it the worst whisky they have tasted in a particular year. Today I’m going to have a look at the first batch of “Storm” bought just when it was released. Often first batches tend to be the best…

talisker-stormColor: Light gold.

Nose: Barley, whiffs of new make spirit. Only whiffs, so no cause for alarm. Not bad, but there is some youthfulness noticeable. Nice smoke mixed with some sweetness. Quite lovely. Soft, wet, green and vegetal peat. Not coastal or iodine driven peat. Not Islay. Nutty, a bit of cardboard and fresh. Sweetened black tea, with peach and fern, growing on the forest floor. Quite fruity underneath. Nope, not very complex at first, but it is appetizing and does evolve a lot with some breathing. It is less powerful than the 10yo, although that one also lost some oomph through the years. Nevertheless a quite appealing storm. I like it. It may be younger than the 10yo, but it is well made and balanced. However after giving this Talisker its bold name, the brutal images of heavy waves pounding on jagged rocks and a lion with a fish-tail made of lightning, I expected something of a heavy hitter with lots of heavy young peat, but actually it could be a Talisker, you buy a dram off, at the local ballet school bar. Still beautiful and nice, but Storm? No, a warm breeze at best. Which is excellent, only different. When you smell it proper, it does tick all the boxes. Smoke, peat, fruit, sweetness, well-balanced. Nice development with air, very nice. Excellent nose.

Taste: Barley and cardboard. Sweet and mouth coating. Very nutty, fruity, nutty again and slightly peaty, band from the start, already some balance, but not as much as the nose has. Behind this, quite a lot of sweet, ripe yellow fruits and some minor cardboard again. Not heavy, but the aroma’s are quite big and warming. Just like the nose, it definitely tastes like a Whisky with a good portion of young Whisky blended in. It has an edge tasting like new make. Where the nose reached complexity after breathing and was well-balanced, towards the end of the body the balance is getting a bit, ehhh, unbalanced. Luckily the sweet and fruity aroma’s are big enough to carry it, those are the ones with staying power and make for a nice finish, but the finish itself is not very long. Yes, there is a baby-pepper attack in the finish, typical for Talisker. Especially near the end of the body, and in the finish, the NAS-element shows it’s (ugly) head. I guess it’s this some people scoff at, but calling it their worst? Please dilate your mind!

The 10yo is on offer lots of times, making it even less expensive than all other NAS offerings put on the market by Diageo. So, should you even consider buying one of these NASses? I read a lot of posts on social media of people scoffing at the “Storm”. Well for me this isn’t about winter storms it more of a Whisky for the first colder nights on the end of summer. Sure different from the 10yo, but I’m not sure if it is worse. I actually believe this is a well made Whisky. Compare this to a youthful Springbank and it is maybe just as good. However Springbank as a family owned operation, do get a lot of love from the public. I love Springbank because of its history but also because them make one of the best Whiskies in this modern age. Talisker are owned by Diageo, which is a big, very big, huge money-making drinks giant, and because of that, they don’t get a lot of love. Just look at my reviews of “Neist Point” and this “Storm”, there is a lot of sepsis. When Talisker is viewed by itself, seen apart from the marketing, just looking at the history and the place it comes from, it also is a very good distillery making good Whisky and easily another of my favorites. Both distilleries mentioned use some peat and the profile fits me just right. So I’m not going to criticize this Talisker because there is no need to. It maybe NAS (and easily recognizable as a NAS, especially if you try it after a few other and older Whiskies). It maybe Diageo and it maybe heavily marketed, but the Whisky itself is definitely worth it, especially when you drink it by itself or if it is the one to start you off, but if I had to choose, and considering the price I would prefer…the other one.

Points: 83

Advertisements

Talisker 1989/2002 “Distillers Edition” (45.8%, OB, TD-S: 5DP)

Since the 2002 Distillers Edition of Lagavulin was such a success, I managed to unearth the 2002 Distillers Edition of Talisker as well. This 2002 version is the direct successor of the 2001 I reviewed a few years ago. This is only the fourth Distillers Edition since with there wasn’t a Talisker DE released in 1999. Both the Talisker and the Lagavulin DE’s were first released in 1997. In 1999 the Second Lagavulin was released and since 2000 both were released annually.

Talisker DE 2002Color: Light copper orange.

Nose: Compared to the Lagavulin this can be called elegant, which is obvious, since Talisker is peated to a lower level and the Whisky itself is much younger. Lightly peated, more fruity and fresh. Fresher, younger and livelier. Slightly grassy. Creamy overall feel. Hints of pudding and vanilla. Nice soft wood. Although this has been finished in a Sherry cask, the finish is quite sparse. It’s typical peatiness is recognizable as a Talisker. Slightly oily and waxy, like an elegant distant relative of Springbank. Hints of old herbs from an old wooden grocery shop. Tiny hint of Islay-esk tarry rope. Hints of yellow fruits even. Sometimes this reminds me of white peach in sweet yoghurt, with some soft, slightly burnt wood added to it. Where the Lagavulin was very in-your-face, this Talisker is not. It’s even less so than the 10yo (from 2002).

Taste: Here the wood comes first after which a toned down little peppery attack announces it’s a Talisker all right. Fatty soft peat. Lovely. Cute almost. With some air, quite nutty. Again a slightly burnt note, which must be from the inside of the Sherry casks. Towards the finish a more smooth and sweet note appears, which I feel is not completely right for Talisker. Creamy towards the finish. Sure the peat is here, but most if it seems hidden by the unexpected sweetness. Medium finish with indeed a fishy part, and alas not much going on in the aftertaste…

Where Whisky buffs will almost always prefer Oloroso Sherry casks over PX Sherry casks. Just look how quickly the Oloroso versions of the vintage Glendronach’s sell out before the PX-versions. In the wine world, Oloroso is not considered the best of Sherries. The PX finish for Lagavulin seems to be a perfect match and nobody would even wonder, at least I didn’t, how a Oloroso finished Lagavulin would be. (Alright, plenty of them around), but for the DE-version at least, I didn’t wonder. For this Talisker however, I’m less happy about the choice of Sherry cask. For me it’s slightly off, so I’m wondering now how other finishes would have worked for Talisker in the DE-series.

Points: 85

Same score as “Neist Point” and a quick comparison between the two warrants the score of both. If offered at the same price, I would go for the Distillers Edition.

Talisker “Neist Point” (45.8%, OB, for Travel Retail)

Just a few weeks ago this new Talisker was released, not by Diageo, but by Diageo Global Travel and Middle East (GTME). What? I don’t know why, but why do I have the feeling I’m being more and more conned? First, lets back up a bit. Not so long ago you had Talisker’s with age statements like 10yo, 12yo, 20yo, 25yo and 30yo, I said, not so long ago. Longer ago we had a stellar 8yo as well. At a certain point, again, not so long ago, the 18yo was released. All of a sudden, the stocks were depleted and the owners saw that Whisky was fetching silly money all across the board. I get that, because you’re in business to make a lot of money, hopefully, so I get the prices that are asked today. It’s a question of simple economics, supply and demand. Supply, somewhat unknown, the demand high.

Screen-Shot-2015-04-09-at-9.59.34-AMConned I said. Now, we are getting NAS Whiskies, and I tell you why. We need a lot of stock of older Whiskies to make high-priced Whiskies with an age statement again for the future. Well the price I mention is uncertain, because you never know what we the public are willing to pay for our Talisker 18yo in ten years’ time. Thus a lot of young Whisky must be released with some added older Whiskies for taste, because Diageo found out that the traveller is mainly concerned with taste and not age.

So we saw a lot of young Whiskies enter the market place and top money is spent to convince us that it’s all about taste and not age, well, we are made to forget that age matters a lot when it comes to taste! As I said above, I understand that I have to shell out some serious money for my Talisker 18yo, 25yo and 30yo, but that’s my choice, since I do love those expressions, but I can decide myself if I want to spend that kind of money, now or in the future. Diageo doesn’t really care because if I won’t spend that money, someone else will, because we see a lot of people paying a lot of money for Whiskies these days. And it’s almost no use looking elsewhere (other distillates), since those prices are soaring as well.

So conned I feel (Yoda speak), because the latest Taliskers don’t have numbers anymore, but names. Storm, Skye, Dark Storm and now Neist Point. As I said before, there used to be a stellar 8yo, a stellar (Tomatin) 5yo, etc. Today those numbers are not wanted, not because they are low, lower than the modern standard, the 10yo, no. Those numbers are unwanted because they are still too high and still too much a restriction. And since we already made a leap in yield per field of barley, today’s young Whisky can’t be compared to the 5yo of yesteryear. The quality od Sherry cask today is also different from the old ones. So lots and lots of young Whisky is sold to us through NAS bottlings. Yes it’s about taste, but no, not that much young Whisky can be so good as is claimed, and that’s my conned feeling right there. I’m indoctrinated and I’m made feeling stupid by claiming that age doesn’t matter (never did) and hiding behind the statement that only taste matters.

Conned some more I say: Why the mystery? Making up a name, fine, give your Whisky the name of a lighthouse or a Hyundai car. It’s fine, I like the names and I like the screen printed lighthouse on the Neist Point bottle. We all know it’s mostly young Whisky, with some added older casks to meet a desired flavour profile. Diageo claims that the traveller doesn’t care for age, but does care for taste, but the traveler speaks some more, the traveller also wants smooth Whisky, the traveller wants smooth Talisker. But why? Talisker smooth? Laphroaig is also being made smooth. Why? Can’t we have anything not smooth anymore? Didn’t we like Talisker and Laphroaig rough? wasn’t Talisker called the lava of the Cuillins? Lava as in not smooth? Hot and peppery!

Even more conning: It was said that Neist Point (The Whisky, not the lighthouse) has a huge depth of flavour and showcases a wider range of Talisker characteristics. Combining precisely selected flavoured Whiskies with some of Talisker’s rarest and smoothest mature stocks. Yeah right. Will those of you that believe this raise their hand? Am I really to believe the rarest of all Talisker stock went into this and are not released as super-duper premium Whiskies now and especially in the future?

So instead of a nice rambling about the new Talisker I started ranting, sorry for that, it never happened to me before. Critical yes, ranting, nope. Why not try this new expression of Talisker and see if it still has some lava in it. By the way, in the past Douglas Laing bottled some smooth Talisker’s. Back then, these casks didn’t match the Talisker profile and were sold off to be used in blends, now they are especially sought out and used for Talisker Neist Point… [fanfare music is playing and curtain rises…]

Talisker Neist Point (45.8%, OB, for Travel Retail)Color: Gold.

Nose: Some light smoke. Barley sweetness, and some old Sherry wood. Tiny hint of cask toast, but very mellow altogether. Hints of citrus. There is some sweetish freshness in the back, lemon and unripe tangerines. Crushed fresh almonds, mixed with some sweet and fatty peat. Mind you not a lot. When you close your eyes and someone pulls the glass away, a more fruity note stays behind and not a peaty one. Slightly warming.

Taste: Sweet, barley and nutty, again lots of almonds. Sweet lovely peat. (Springbank style). Extremely drinkable, but even after the first sip it is lacking some power and doesn’t hang around in the mouth for too long. Fruity, but more about yellow fruits. Dried apricots and pineapple. A little bit of toasted wood. Thick clay in the finish, which is nice, but the rest of the finish is about immature and young Whisky. Young can be mature, immature just isn’t mature. No pepper attack, so how’s this a Talisker? Short and a bit unbalanced finish, with a beer like note and fresh barley as the last of the aroma’s.

After the rant above, some of you maybe expected I would hate this Talisker, but in fact I wrote the piece above before even tasting Neist Point. It is how I feel, maybe I’m wrong, who knows. Neist Point is what I thought it would be, nice, smooth, extremely drinkable, but also a bit immature, and the rarest of Talisker casks didn’t hide that. Maybe more of those casks should have gone in?

In the end it’s not bad, but not spectacular either. If they really want to sell this for 150 euro’s, pounds or dollars, I feel it’s too expensive. I paid half of that for my bottle and that would seem more than enough. Sometimes it reminds me of Springbank 18yo and obviously the smooth 1980 Tactical from Douglas Laing. Both are better Whiskies with much longer finishes. Spend your money on that I would say, although the Tactical is hard to get these days.

Points: 85

Talisker 19yo 1980/2000 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, “Tactical”, 348 bottles)

A week ago “Het Genietschap” had its first ever tasting at my house. I’ve been a member for quite some time, but it took a while to get my ‘location’ added to the agenda. Well finally it was my turn. The organizer gets to choose a ‘theme’, and mine was “Talisker”. When I sent out the E-mail I got a lot of Talisker 10’s as entries, and even some replies implying that there wasn’t a Talisker in the house. Well that got me worried for a moment. My guest of the evening, Erik, asked if he could bring his Port Ellen 29yo 1982/2012 (55.5%, Old Bothwell, Cask #2041), and so the Port Ellen aftertasting was born. My entries for the event were the Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB, Circa 2002, Map Label), Talisker 1988/2001 “Distillers Edition” (45.8%, OB, TD-S: 5CO), Talisker 25yo (56.9%, OB, Refill Casks, 2006, 4.860 bottles), and the ‘Tactical’ I’ll be reviewing now. For the aftertasting I entered my Port Ellen 25yo 1982/2008 (50%, DL OMC, Refill Butt DL REF 4112, 589 bottles).

Best bottle in the tasting was a young Port Ellen 15yo bottled by Cadenheads in 1996, Stunning! It was just a tiny bit better, or better: different, than the also stunning Talisker 20yo 1981/2002 (62%, OB, Sherry, 9000 bottles). Also the pre Classic Malts Talisker 10yo was fabulous. Even today’s 10yo is pretty good, but can’t be compared to the taste of the old bottle. This ‘Tactical’ wasn’t bad either…

Color: White wine.

Nose: Creamy and clean. Seems sweet. Some wood spice. Mocha. Later more dusty and dry. A dry stack of logs. More meaty than peaty, I would say. Young. Not a typical Talisker. When aired a bit, some great notes come forward. Bonfire, outdoor life in general, accompanied by a tad of lemon. Nice. Let this breathe (for the nose).

Taste: Spicy and sweet, toffee with some liquorice and banana’s. The start is great. Lots of liquorice and a bit like a good Belgian beer. Nice peppery bite in the middle, so it’s a real Talisker. Towards the finish, when the pepper dissipates, some sour wood takes over and makes the finish thin and the balance a bit off. Actually a short finish. With wood, ash and paper. Funny how the initial taste is so different from the finish.

It’s a Talisker all right. The pepper attack is there. Still the whole isn’t typical Talisker. It smells clean, it tastes round and big bodied, but it has a ‘small’ finish, which is unlike Talisker.

Points: 87

Talisker Distillers Edition 1988/2001 (45.8%, OB, TD-S: 5CO)

We’re on a roll with those Taliskers, so why not continue the saga with another one. Maybe this less recent Distillers Edition? The Distillers Editions are finished expressions of the ‘normal’ Classic Malt line and was introduced in 1997. Then Cragganmore (Ruby Port), Dalwhinnie (Oloroso Sherry), Glenkinchie (Amontillado Sherry), Lagavulin (Pedro Ximinez Sherry), Oban (Montilla Fino Sherry) and Talisker (Amoroso Sherry) got treated to a happy marriage with a Sherry or Port. All said to be complements to the original style of the distillery, not overpowering it. Due to the success of the new range, expansion was to be expected. In 2006 a Distillers Edition of Caol Ila (already in european oak!) finished in Moscatel and Clynelish finished in Oloroso Sherry was issued. And last but not least in 2008 Royal Lochnagar finished in Muscat was issued. We’ll probably see more expressions released in the near future.

Color: Dark gold almost copper, a bit darker than the 10yo reviewed yesterday.

Nose: Fresh, sea spray, a bit musty and woody. Easily recognizable as a Talisker with added sweetness, toffee and some meat (often with Sherry).

Taste: it’s a Talisker all right. It seems to be less peaty, added licorice and more woody. The Amoroso casks do give off some extra wood. If you chew this whisky, you can easily detect the sourness that oak can give off. It’s not mere months the whisky was finished, but probably longer if not a few years. The oak is in the same spot where normally the pepper attack would be. I for one can’t detect the pepper anymore in this, and that’s a bit of a shame. Thick round body with a floral touch, violets maybe. I know that added caramel rounds out a body, but it seems to me the Amoroso does that trick here. Compared to the 10yo, this is more…ehhh round. All the extremes are toned down. Chewy and sweeter than the usual 10yo. Just a tad less balance in the finish.

I’m not convinced this is better or if this type of sherry is the best for Talisker. It’s good, but I prefer the 10yo. Funny how this resembles the 10yo more and more, when you let this breathe for a prolonged time in your glass. Interesting take on Talisker.

Points: 86

Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB, Map Label, Circa 2002)

By special request a Talisker 10yo. Alas I don’t have a recent one open, so I’ll have to review an older expression that was bottled some ten years ago. I think this was from 2002 (L15R00029697), but it could be even some years older than that. Lot’s of names to distinguish the looks of the bottle, but this one should be the Map label (in Cream map box and a Brown glass bottle). Just have a look at the picture.

For those of you who have read my review of the 25yo from 2006, I don’t have to mention again how great I think Talisker is and how they are keeping the usual suspects on a high level of quality. Also consider the amount of Talisker they make these days!

Talisker saw the light of day in 1830. For a long time even, Talisker was triple distilled, but they stopped doing that in 1928. Like any good distillery they also had a big fire (1960). Talisker returned to form just two years later with exact copies of the destroyed equipment, mainly the five stills. In 1972 the malting closes. After that once in a while some equipment is replaced, but nothing major.

Color: Gold

Nose: Yeah, this is the good peat! Very elegant and classy! After that creamy and toffeelike. Fern, clay, plants on wet soil. Hints of orange skin, no tangerine skin. Warming nose and given some time it even gets salty which really is rather silly in a description of the nose. This really is what I like.

Taste: Sweet, pepper attack, pepper as in black-and-white power or licorice. Hint of apple instead of citrus. Again elegant and balanced, and really no wood to speak of. The pepper attack stays on the tongue for a while and get some toffee in. So nice. This really shows you it’s the base of the 25yo’s to be. Its nice, but shows you the potential in growth. Such a shame there isn’t a cask strength version of this. That really would have been something.

This profile is great and if you want this, you’ll have to pay some serious cash to buy yourself an old Islay whisky or even Brora. I know, an older expression of the standard 10yo Talisker is getting more pricey lately, but still nowhere near to the prices asked for the aforementioned bottles. Do yourself a favour and get it while you can, and beware, this is dangerously drinkable. This will be empty before you know it. I left myself a 125 ml sample of this, but I almost drank it all writing this! Stay away, just drink milk instead, its good for you, unless you are lactose intolerant I guess.

Points: 88

Talisker 25yo (56.9%, OB, Refill Casks, 2006, 4860 bottles)

And here is Talisker. Talisker is a favourite of mine, a love affair maybe. It is a unique distillery on a unique island. Talisker is always good. So many big names from the past have slipped, some where good in the 60’s, but not now, some were good in the 70’s, but not now. Talisker isn’t one of them. Just buy any Talisker 10yo and it’s great. Even the worst Taliskers are still good. So the quality is alway delivered. Kudo’s to the people of Talisker. And when Talisker went cheating (Cask sold of to brokers or independent  bottlers), Talisker was still very interesting. Just have a look at the different Taliskers issued by Douglas Laing, (as Director’s Tactical). All those casks were probably sold off since they didn’t possess the typical Talisker markers. Peat, pepper and so on. But give these a chance and something extraordinary is revealed to you about the Talisker spirit. And again even the worst Taliskers from them are still good. That’s why I like Talisker very much.

Strange enough Talisker was never issued as a Rare Malt. But saw the light of day in many forms in a Special Release. As a Normal release we have the 10yo, 18yo and the distillers edition (finished in a Amoroso Sherry cask). And de standard Special releases were the 20yo, 25yo and the 30yo. The 20yo was released in 2002 and 2003, the 25yo was released in 2001 and from 2004-2009. The 30yo was released from 2006 untill 2010. In 2011 there were no Taliskers anymore, just a 34yo from 1975, that cost a pretty penny.

Now for this 25yo from 2006, considered to be one of the best 25yo’s (if not thé best).

Color: Gold

Nose: Elegant peat and log fire smoke. Clean and fresh at first, but give it some time to develop. Perfectly balanced. Fern, leafy, wet forest floor. Gravy with a slight hint of mint. Some black peppered butter and toasted wood. Also a mysteriously depth, like there’s something very old that’s been kept secret. Some Brora like farmyness, and river clay. This just keeps developing.

Taste: Pepper! Animalesk. Sweet and woody (a bit sour). The clay from the nose comes through big time. Ash, almonds and putty. It has some sweetness hidden in the clay, but that disappears quickly. This is some great full-bodied stuff. The finish has some wood in it, slightly bitter and could have been a wee bit more balanced. Water does little for this whisky, so you’d better not.

This is great, but still I do understand why some people don’t like the 25 yo’s in particular. For a long time these didn’t sell so well, and because some of the earlier releases were quite big batches of 15.000 and 21.000 bottles. Now these are mostly still available, but again at the higher price from the beginning. People got wiser and start to ‘get’ the 25yo and started to appreciate them. Now it’s time for you to do the same…

Points: 91

P.S. here is Rockin’ Jan’s take on Talisker 10yo.