Updated: Jan 13, 2019
"A whisky made by the sea." Here we have finally -- the highly anticipated Talisker Distillery. Setting on the shores of Loch Harport is every smoky-whisky lovers' favorite distillery.
First of all, I am very fortunate to be able to taste Talisker's New Make that was specially permitted for this tasting tour. Its newness is perhaps the most remarkable thing I have experienced in the tour. Anyway, let's first talk about some background history of the distillery itself.
Until the recent opening of the Torabhaig Distillery, Talisker was the only distillery on Isle of Skye. The distillery was first established by Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill in 1830; and similar to the majority of distilleries in Scotland, it is now a part of the multinational beverage company Diaego family. What needs to be addressed is that there are actually many advantages of being under such a gigantic beverage company. One of the reasons is that Talisker does not need to produce its own malts and could have all its malt supplied by Glen Ord Central Maltings. (Click here for my review of whiskies from there!)
Perhaps best reflected by its slogan "Powerful, smoky, made by the sea", Talisker definitely has one of the most unique character among all Scotch. And this is pretty much well-reflected in most of its whiskies. In the following, I am going to talk about several of the 6 expressions that I tried during the whisky tasting tour in addition to Talisker Neist Point which I tried after the tour.
To start off, we have the Talisker New Make, which is the bottle on the far left in the following picture. As I was saying, it is truly my honor to be able to taste this unique favor of Talisker since it was permitted specially for this tasting tour. If I remember it correctly, it is only aged for a year, so technically it does not count as a Scotch and thus why it is transparent in color.
So how does it taste you may ask? Firstly, it is sweet, sherry-like, and slightly grassy when you nose it. Then when you have a sip of it, the instant powerful peaty smoke just instantly just comes right into your mouth. The reason of so is because it is a 'new make' and it contains a 68.3% alcohol volume. However, if you happen to add some water into the whisky (which you could see the whisky turns milky), you could taste some peppery spice from the palate. Lastly, finishing with a hot and oily scent.
I am going to skip through Talisker 10 year-old, which I tried secondly; not because it is I do not like it, but because it is the most common yet the most classic Talisker whisky ever. In other words, all of you should definitely try Talisker 10 before you explore their other whiskies I would say. However, what I discovered during the tour is that if you rub some Talisker 10 yo in your hands, you could actually get a mashy scent.
Next off is the Talisker Distillers Edition. Probably a less known whisky, it is actually much sweeter than the majority of other Talisker. The reason of being so is because when the whisky is being matured, it was first placed in an oak cask and then followed up by a sherry cask. To begin with, you will not find the typical Talisker peaty-smoke when you nose it. What you get instead is an extremely sharp and focused sweetness.
The palate is slightly different from the conventional Talisker as well. Although it begins with a crisp peat, it then softens into enormous sweetness. Because it is matured in a sherry cask for a decent amount of time, the sherry scent would replace the typical peppery palate as well. To finish off, you would get a scent of earthy peat and a deep coca note.
Now we return to one of the best whiskies from Talisker -- Talisker 18 year-old. As praised by Master of Malt, it is 'a must have for any Talisker Fan.' In fact, it was so well-received, it actually took the title Best Whisky in the World at the 2007 World Whiskies Awards too! I guess its complexity is perhaps explained by its good mixture of Bourbon and European oak. To begin with, the nose is quite clean and fresh. It is smooth, toffee-like, and has a note of caramel as well.
The palate is thick and full-bodied. It is a combination of spicy, peppery oak, and wood smoke all at once. What's interesting is that the spice gradually builds up as well. The finish is one of the best part actually. Its long and gentle peppery oak is perhaps my favorite element of the whisky.
Followed up by the Talisker 57° North. What's interesting about this whisky is that it is actually the first non-aged statement by Talisker. Perhaps due to the fact that it has a little bit of Talisker from across the years, the nose immediately reminds me of the New Make that I tried at the beginning of the tour. Very pungent and full. The scent of newness could still be found in the palate. In addition to the typical spicy and peppery oak, it is also rather creamy and honey-like. The finish is long with peppery and oaky notes.
Now I'll skip over to Talisker Neist Point first. Named after the westerly point lighthouse at Skye, it was created originally for travel retail. Again because of being a non-aged statement, its nose contains character from Talikser from different ages. On the one hand it has the classic costal, peaty smoke from containing younger whiskies, on the other hand, it also contains elements of sweet spice, and vanilla as well.
The palate actually is kind of a distrack from the nose. After the initial burn, the salty and sweet peanut butter scent fades in. The saltiness is slightly overwhelming as well. Thus, it is pretty different from the other Talisker. The finish then returns to the scent from the nose, with sweet smoke and spice, and a very long drying scent. However, I would consider the price point for Neist Point higher than it should be.
And finally the highlight of this blog post -- Talisker 25 year-old. No words could describe how much I loved this bottle of whisky. It is so beautifully crafted that I actually decided to take this bottle of whisky home from the distillery. After being matured for 25 years in oak casks, the smokiness of the whisky is much more gentle than the younger Talisker.
The nose, to begin with, is extremely diverse. Maritime-like, fruity scent like banana fritters and green apples, some old oaky scent, along with a distant smoke all held together. The palate takes quite a discourse as well. It starts sweet (vanilla-like) and gentle, perhaps containing a floral heather scent and balancing acidity and saltiness; it then quickly intensifies as it develops a minerally, toasty, and finally a peppery, smoky barley character. The finish is perhaps the most dreamy whisky I've ever had. Reassuringly warming, the smoke becomes sweet on the finish.
The scent of the Talisker 25 year-old remained in my mouth for almost the rest of the day. Its medium bodied, perfectly balanced texture is perhaps the reason why I fell in love with this bottle of whisky.
Ending with a fun fact, since this Talisker 25 yo is bottled in 2017, around the time when Torabhaig Distillery was about to open, you could still see the label on the bottle saying Talisker is the only distillery on Isle of Skye. Regardless whether it is the only distillery on Skye, Talisker would always have a special place in my heart; from its extremely powerful 10 year-old that I always have when I want something smoky to its very elegant 25 year-old that I would never forget about.