Talisker 20yo 1980/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, “Tactical”, Finished in Sherry Wood, 504 bottles)

Earlier this year I had a leak in my house form a burst cold water pipe. Some demolition was done fixing the problem, so as of this past week and for three weeks in total, I live temporarily elsewhere, whilst several professionals fix up and better my place. My mate Erik offered me his house and I gladly accepted. Erik already sold his house but moved in with his girlfriend earlier than both expected, hopefully that will go well. If you think this is amazing, then let me tell you he also left me some open bottles as well, so I can review them here. And not your average run-of-the-mill, bang-for-your-buck Whiskies as well! 6.5 years ago I already did some kind of short job on another Tactical from the Old Malt Cask range and now, finally, I have a chance to review another one. Thanks mate!

Color: White Wine.

Nose: Slightly peated and sweet. Grassy and vegetal. Organic and slightly fruity acidity with every first sniff from my glass. Old scool. Slightly nutty, fresh and pungent. Hints of warm motor oil and definitely nothing like a modern Whisky or officially released Talisker I know of. If you move it around your glass for a bit, the sweetness emerges first, quickly to be taken over by a lot of the other aromas. Cooked red beets, and more of the sweetness, and some smoke again. Aromas released as by an indicator light. Sweetness on, sweetness off, sweetness on, sweetness off…More fireplace notes, with even whiffs of almost overheated plastic, and back to the green grassy notes again. Indicator light all right. Coffee, mocha, cardboard and hints of well aged Calvados. Dark chocolate bonfire. Sugar water, warm water from doing the dishes, peach and apple, for fruits. Yes, there is a lot happening here. Unique smell, very much the smell of Whisky from yesteryear. A smell to die for. Ticks boxes, awakens emotions. Great Scot(t) (and Bruce) almighty!

Taste: Starts a bit bitter, with charred wood, and again green and vegetal. Warming going down. Strong coffee notes with almonds. Smelling it after the first sip makes the smell even better. Second sip starts with the slightly bitter coffee notes with now some added fresh fruity acidity. A narrow band of green apple skins. The whole is not as big and complex as the nose promised. Next some more of the peaty notes. No heavy peat, but yes, the classic Talisker pepper attack is here people! Hello there! After the silky bitter notes finally some sweetness appears, to balance it out. Still this killer smell, wow! Sure, big on wood, peat, yes, but not as earthy nor as fatty as we’ve grown accustomed to from the usual suspects. Slight hint of warm plastic on the palate as well. Still a lot of coffee notes and dark chocolate stay on for the warming finish. The finish itself is pretty long, built around peat and wood. No big aftertaste though. 

The smell is stellar, old scool and well balanced. Amazing length, and the longer you let it breathe the better it gets, almost as if there are no limits to the development. The taste less so. Lacks a bit of complexity and evolution in my glass. Not overly bitter, but definitely bitter and wood driven. Could have been “bigger”, more complex. If only the fruity bits and some acidity could have made their way through, I believe it would do much better. Nevertheless, this is still a sort of classic Malt. From days long gone. I love it, its good and definitely an experience. 

Points: 87

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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