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.

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Lagavulin 1986/2002 “Distillers Edition” (43%, OB, lgv. 4/490)

Lagavulin is one of my all time favorite distilleries. It’s almost impossible to encounter a bad Lagavulin. I can’t believe this is just the third review of Lagavulin on these pages the other two being the other two from the current standard range. The 16yo and the 12yo. The 16yo is the modern classic (It used to be the 12yo with the cream label) and right at the time there was a rumour the 16yo would be quite scarce, the new cask strength 12yo was released. As I said, the current standard range is the 16yo, this distillers edition I’m about to review, and the 12yo cask strength version. The latter two come to us as “annual releases”. Just like Springbank, this means that there is some batch variation. A wanted batch variation, to buy more of the same and compare them to other releases, identified by  bottling year.

Just like NAS today, batch variation was always a dirty phrase, it’s not a word isn’t it. But marketing turned that around, just as they are trying with NAS. For me NAS means younger, less matured Whisky, so less contact with wood and as Gordon & MacPhail so aptly put it: “The wood makes the Whisky”. I’m not really happy about NAS, but I never disliked batch variations (again, look at Springbank), unless if the only way seemed to be down. There always has been a lot of discussion about our very Lagavulin 16yo, losing power, balance and character, but I hear the latest batches are becoming better and better again. Today Laphroaig seems to suffer from that…

This is the fifth Lagavulin Distillers Edition (DE). The first was distilled in 1979, the second in 1980, the third in 1981, and the fourth in 1984. Just like all the other distillers Editions, this Lagavulin has undergone a second maturation (a finish) in Pedro Ximénez (PX) casks.

Lagavulin DE 2002Color: Copper orange.

Nose: Fantastic peat. Lagavulins from the eighties can have this excellent peat, I never get tired of. Peat, tar, seashore, you name anything maritime and its in here. Sure the more recent DE’s are still pretty good, but they don’t smell like this. That’s why Whisky lovers still pay a great deal of money for these older bottlings. Smoke comes next and it smells a bit electrical. It has vanilla and a slight fruity nose. You know it’s there, but so hard to distinguish what it is. Ahhh lots of smoked (dry) sausage and slightly dried out onions and pear. Excellent, what a combination. Where have you smelled that last in a Whisky? This Lagavulin is all about balance (again some kind of dirty word for some). The whole is so fantastic, and goes on and on. Wonderful. Hard to put down. With time the fruit, still distant, finds it’s place in the whole and adds a more fresh and fruity part to the whole. Just smelling it is quite the experience, and still getting better. Lagavulin is such a big aroma, that even the thick and sweet PX can’t overpower it, just add a little something. I guess the finish was done intelligently. I’m putting off tasting it for just a while longer to put on my fisherman’s sweater…

Taste: …in the end it would be a shame not to taste this, so here goes. Well somewhat less special than the nose is the first thing that comes to mind. The PX is more upfront as well. It starts out chewy. Nice licorice, black and white powder and a thick sweet Sherry without most of its sweetness. Does that even make sense? Waxy and again very coastal and raw. Masculine. Puffer’s smoke. Burning hay. Fishy, as it should be. Smoked fish of course. Smearing tar on the hull of a boat. Get yourself something like this, because modern peated Whiskies are nowhere near this profile. I wouldn’t add water to it, because reducing it to 43% shortened the finish already. Big body, with only a medium finish. In the aftertaste the balance is slightly gone. It could have been even better than it already is! Wow.

It’s been a while, but I do understand why Whisky lovers in general pay lots of money for Whiskies like this. This is great and they sure can’t make them like this anymore. Drinking this put you in a different place and time altogether. It changes you as a person (for a while). Sure it puts you back a few hundred euro’s pounds or dollars, but try to imagine what a trip to Islay in 1986 would cost you now. It’s a time-machine and time-bomb in one. A must have.

Points: 91

Cragganmore 1988/2002 “Distillers Edition” (40%, OB, Double Matured in Ruby Port Wood, CggD-6553)

As could have been expected by reading the last review here is the Cragganmore Distillers Edition, and just like the 12yo this particular bottle, was also bottled in 2002. Cragganmore is seen by many as a top Whisky. Blenders see it that way, and especially Diageo see it that way too. Although it has been part of the original Classic Malts range from 1988, it never was the most popular of the six. I don’t have to spell them out for you don’t I? Well OK, the original six were: Lagavulin (Islay), Talisker (Skye: Islands), Oban (marketed as West-Highlands), Glenkinchie (Lowlands, which many thought it would be Rosebank, but economics decided otherwise), Dalwhinnie (Highlands) and Cragganmore (Speyside). Still some aficionado’s are very keen on Cragganmore because Cragganmore is said to be a complex malt by using hard water and have stills with flat tops. History also teaches us that Cragganmore used a lot of Sherry casks.

Cragganmore 1988/2002 "Distillers Edition" (40%, OB, Double Matured in Ruby Port Wood, CggD-6553)Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Creamy and waxy, this time with a winey note, which makes it instantaneously more interesting than the 12yo. Fresh air with licorice and black and white powder. The yellow fruits from the original 12yo have been replaced by the red (berry) fruits from the Port finish. Tiny hint of Calvados. Red apple skin. Creamy vanilla is still here though. Hints of Sinaspril (a children’s headache medicine I remember from the seventies). Fruity candy powder (synthetic).

Taste: Seems spicier, but still a bit too light. Watered down Ice-cream. Quite sweet. Sugar water with a tiny amount of forest fruit syrup. If this would have been cask strength, the harshness you get from Ruby Port finishes probably would have been easily noticeable. Instead, the reduction and the sweetness are able to keep the Ruby Port in check. Just like the 12yo I reviewed last, this has a pretty weak again and it has a finish with some cask toast thrown in for good measure, but it helps. Up untill the body, the Whisky has quite some good aroma, and then the finish comes which has the length of a snuffed out candle. It’s alight for one moment and gone the next. This really needs to be slightly higher in strength, as well as the 12yo. If 46% ABV is too much, at least adopt 43% as a minimum strength for Single Malt Whisky. Sure in the olden days a lot of Malts were 40% and held their ground, but today’s yield driven more modern Malts seem to need a higher strength than that…

Personally I find the choice for Ruby Port always very tricky. Whereas Tawny Port is easier to use and gives usually better results, because Ruby Port finishes can be very harsh and are easily overdone. Luckily here the finish seems to be OK. The 12yo was quite simple, fruity and sweet, but for me this Distillers Edition has something more to say, especially on the nose. Concerning the taste, the Port is not always good match for the sweetness of the Cragganmore Malt. The first time I tried it, it didn’t work, the next day I liked it, but maybe that’s saying more about me than the Malt. It still is an easy peasy Malt, not all that complex. It is quite interesting and I do quite like it. I prefer it over the 12yo.

Points: 84

Oban 1995/2010 (43%, OB, OD 159.FW, Distillers Edition, Montilla Fino Finish)

Oban is one of the special Whiskies from Diageo. Not a lot of versions around, very little independents have it, and most of it you’ll find are old bottles, with big prices. It a bit their highland Lagavulin, which also once had few expressions and little seen with independents.

Montilla is a Spanish DO (Denominación de Origen) from the southern part of Córdoba. The Fino used for this finish is commonly a clean, vibrant, straw-colored wine. It has a complex and subtle nose. Delicate notes of predominantly yeast and almonds. Sometimes also tobacco and liquorice. The taste is dry, bitter, smooth and lingering. Also very nice olive oil comes from here.

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Fresh (air), wood, a little bit creamy. Thick. Slightest hints of tar and laurel liquorice and something sour like a green apple. Dry and perfumed paper. This does have a Fino trait to it (I once had a Fino Glenfarclas and the characteristics are very similar. I also once had a bone dry Fino Sherry from Lustau, which also had the same characteristics). I guess, Whiskies from a Fino cask are easy to recognize.

Taste: Wood is the first up, plywood. Yep, Fino. Little bit of vanilla ice-cream. And a slight pepper bite. It has cardboard combined with sugar, some sort of strange sweetness. I’m not convinced this finish worked well with the Oban distillate. The finish is quite anonymous. Also, it isn’t very balanced. After some breathing I got some organics (yeast and cow-stable) and some late sweetness, which makes it slightly more drinkable, but it doesn’t undo the unbalance.

This is a bit disappointing actually. I expected more from Oban combined with Fino Sherry. Not something I would buy, nor would I order this at a bar. For me it is ‘put together’ or crafted. It isn’t being honest like I found recently with some official Benromachs. Also the Fino finish doesn’t work for me here.

Points: 82

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