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Expression Session — Tasting Seven Scotch Whiskies In The Talisker Portfolio


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A great bottle of whiskey isn’t hard to find these days. The spirit is dominating the drinks conversation around the world (and in the United States) and we’re very into it. That being said, a bad bottle of whiskey is also pretty easy to stumble upon. So a little guidance on which whiskeys to drink is never a bad thing.

With that in mind, we’re launching a new column to help you expand your whiskey palate while also taking a deep dive into a single distillery. This will give you a chance to take your whiskey knowledge from beginner to “Hey, I’m starting to get this whole whiskey thing” levels. To do so, we’re focusing in on a single distillery and breaking down their core line of expressions — expressions being the variously aged and barreled bottles distilleries put out regularly.

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list of every single expression or limited edition a distillery or blender has ever released. These are simply the bottles that are available on the wider market regularly with maybe one limited edition bottle thrown in for good measure. Let’s dive in and help up your whisk(e)y game!

EXPAND YOUR WHISK(E)Y PALATE WITH… TALISKER

Talisker is one of the oldest whisky distilleries in Scotland. The current distillery sits on the sea next to a babbling stream on a site dating back to 1880. The idyllic and rugged hills of the Scottish islands tower above the white-walled distillery and the bracing mist of the sea is ever-present.

Talisker brings in malted barley that’s been peated to a medium level, mills it in-house, then starts the fermentation process with local water. That’s then distilled and cooled through a special pipping system that travels through massive baths of seawater before going into a masterful on-site barreling program that utilizes used American oak with a few sherry and port casks for special editions.

The beauty of Talisker is that each expression is a representation of a single place. The whisky transports you to that little bay with those brown-hued mountains rising above. You can taste the sea spray, damp grass, and oyster brininess in every sip. It’s a timeless whisky that deserves time to really take in.

Talisker 10

What To Talk About:

Talisker 10 is an award-winning and classic scotch whisky. It was named the best single malt in the world at the 2015 San Francisco Spirits Competition. This is the good stuff that’s also accessible. The spirit is distilled with malted barely through Talisker’s antique copper stills, cooled by seawater from the nearby bay, and then aged in re-built bourbon barrels from the US.

Tasting notes:

You’re greeted with peaty smoke and briny oysters with a hint of lemon on this one. That leads to a clear barley maltiness and a rich dried-fruit sweetness and heft. A sharp peppery nature comes in as the smoke takes you to a warming finish with a slight sea breeze in the background.

Bottom line:

Drink this one neat, on a couple of rocks, or mixed into a highball with a fizzy and very minerally soda water.

Talisker Skye

What To Talk About:

Talisker Skye is a “no-age-statement” single malt. It’s a blend of a few signature barrels that represent the unique nature of the Isle Skye and the Talisker Distillery. The distilled booze is aged in toasted and refilled American oak and then nurtured into one brilliant bottle of whisky.

Tasting notes:

There’s a tropical fruitiness reminiscent of mango up front, with a cutting orange zest followed by a seaweed-covered piece of driftwood. The smoke is more of a wisp than a statement as the herbal fruitiness leans towards a velvet nature that covers the tongue. Finally, a spiciness comes into play with the last whispers of smoke as the finish fades into a warming Isle of Skye hug.

Bottom line:

This makes for a great cocktail base. Switch up your Old Fashioned or Manhattan game, or break out a sweet and sour Penicillin.

Talisker Storm

What To Talk About:

Talisker Storm took the gold in San Francisco in 2015 as well, this time for the best “no-age-statement” single malt. The nuance of Talisker’s brilliant barreling program shines through this expression. The spirit is aged in used barrels that have been de-charred and then re-charred to Talisker’s specific requirements. This adds a level of smoky depth that is wholly unique … and delicious.

Tasting notes:

This is a bold opener, with notes of heft peat smoke, briny oyster liquor, ripe red berries, malted barley, and freshly cracked black pepper. That spiciness leads to a mellowing as a smoked almond fattiness comes into play alongside an oaky nature and sea spray rush. Finally, the spice ends in a burnt ember of peaty smoke as a note of dryness ends the sip.

Bottom line:

Sip this one with a few drops of water to get the full effect. Then, maybe, use it as a base for a wicked highball with a very minerally soda water.

Talisker Dark Storm

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Just our type: tall, dark and stormy.

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What To Talk About:

Dark Storm takes the char of Storm and amps that sh*t up to eleven. This is all about pushing the boundaries of whisky, wood, and char to their limits and still finding a beautiful sip of booze.

Tasting notes:

Salted meats and smoke are front-and-center. Apples stewed in cinnamon and allspice make an appearance next to a campfire smokiness with fatty bacon cooking in a skillet. Black licorice cuts through the smoke with tinges of tart black currants and earthy nutmeg spice. The smoke remains throughout and lingers as the spice leads to a lasting smoke-laden finish.

Bottom line:

This makes an amazing smoky Old Fashioned that ebbs towards a great smoky mezcal version of that drink. It also works wonders in a spicy, dark Manhattan (or Rob Roy if you will).

Talisker 57° North

What To Talk About:

57° North is a no-age-statement whisky that has a double meaning. Talisker Distillery sits at, you guessed it, 57° North latitude. Also, this whisky is bottled at cask strength, which is 57.8 percent ABV. This one packs a wallop with a great, subtle taste.

Tasting notes:

There’s an almost match flint feel to the smoke on this one. It’s gone in a flash and charred wood is left. Buttery toffee sits next to wildflowers and berries as briny notes of seaweed bob up and down in the background. Volcanic black earth and smoke dominate as the taste progresses towards peppery spice and warm ending note.

Bottom line:

This one is worth sipping on while eating a few dozen raw oysters.

Talisker Distiller’s Edition

What To Talk About:

Talisker’s Distiller’s Edition adds a crucial barreling nuance that helps this bottle stand out from the pack. After mellowing in ex-bourbon casks for years, the master blenders select the best of the best and then age it for several months in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks. This adds an extra layer of depth but also cools the spirit down into a mellow and very accessible sip of whisky.

Tasting notes:

This is a direct sip of booze. It opens with a clear, rich raisin sweetness and sharp smokiness that never overwhelms. The almost fresh notes of peat lead to a richly roasted earthy malt nature with a nice sense of dryness. The sherry shines through with fatty and sweet plums that keep the smoke well in check. Bitter cacao notes alongside earthy vanilla come in on the end.

Bottom line:

This is the scotch to sip if you’re not into heavy smoke and love bourbon. Try it neat with a few drops of water before exploring highball and cocktail options.

Best Limited Edition: Talisker 25 Years Old

What To Talk About:

This is Talisker’s annual release special edition that’s worth pre-ordering, hunting down, and drinking damn near every day. The single malt spent 25 years mellowing and maturing into a masterclass of what great whisky can be if you give it time.

Bottles like this are a bit of a time machine. This year’s bottling was distilled in 1994, meaning the barley grew and was harvested in 1993. It’s always fun to look back at the weather that year, the number one songs or movies, and what the world was like when this whisky started its life.

Tasting notes:

The best way to describe this sip is pure nuance and subtlety. A teak ship’s deck after a storm at sea leaks into your senses. Smoke on a distant horizon is joined by lingering notes of spicy pepper. Slight fatty plum sweetness and wood lead to warming spices and heavier smoke as though you’re slowly sailing that boat into a bay near a village after a rainstorm. Bitter cacao, wisps of fiery smoke, salt, and pepper bring this one to a decisive conclusion.

Bottom line:

Sip this one neat with a few drops of water. Maybe one cube of ice if you have to. Enjoy!

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