Sunday, March 28, 2010

Review: Talisker 10, 18, DE

I wish more whisky was available in 200 mL bottles.  Not only are they so cute, but it allows one to fully appreciate a drink without committing to the price of a full 750 mL bottle.  Pictured above are the 200 mL bottles of the Talisker gift-set, which I purchased for $72.  I have previously plowed through full bottles of the 10 and 18, but I had yet to try the Distiller's Edition.

Talisker 10

Price: $50-$60
Strength: 45.8 %

Bottled at an absurd 45.8 % (one of a select few non-cask strength bottlings with three significant digits of ABV precision), Talisker 10 is largely responsible for the start of my Scotch habit.  Talisker 10 was my first purchase of single malt in the United States, when I had no idea what I was shopping for and knew little about Scotch beyond the vague idea (instilled from my recent vacation to Edinburgh, Scotland) that it was really cool.  I chose Talisker because it came in a pretty bottle and had a card on the shelf saying it tasted good (I remember it said something about toffee notes).  I cracked the bottle, sat in a recliner, and took a sip.  The signature Talisker pepper exploded upon my palate and spread sweet warmth down my throat, and I thought "This is awesome."  It was then that I was permanently made a Scotch enthusiast.

With a little more experience, I still love Talisker 10.  The nose gives strong earthy peat, with some salty caramel candy.  The peat is much less smoky and intense than Islay peat though.  Think of it like smelling a sea breeze as opposed to gulping the sea water.  The peat and salty caramel notes dominate the front end of the palate, but then the pepper explosion occurs and continues into the super long finish.  The finish is a little rough but warming, finally leaving a pleasant saltiness.

Despite the fantastic finish, Talisker 10 is rather thin on the body, and I suspect that this drink would profit greatly if it were not chill-filtered.  Still, one of the best 10-year-olds on the market.  88 points (B+).

Talisker 18

Price: $80-$90
Strength: 45.8 %

Talisker 18 has much the same profile as its younger sibling (are Scotches male or female?).  The nose and front end of the palate still show peat and salty caramel, but the extra maturation exposes oak notes as well.  Though the peat is a little subdued compared to the 10, these notes blend together better and suggest greater depth.  The pepper explosion on the palate does not have any of the roughness of the 10, and the finish is still long and warming.  Talisker 18 also gains some richness as compared to the 10 and has a medium body, pushing this whisky into "classic" status.

Talisker 18 can currently be bought for about $85, making it a relative bargain and worth the $30 uptick from the 10.  94 points (A).

Talisker DE

Price: $70-$80
Strength: 45.8 %

The Distiller's Edition bottle was distilled in 1992 and bottled in 2005, which would make it a 12 or 13 year old single malt.  The gimmick is that the typical Talisker liquid is finished in ex-sherry casks, with the apparent aim of adding some sweet fruit notes.  However, the new notes have the unfortunate effect of muting what makes Talisker so great.  The nose on the DE is confused, with the peat and sherry battling each other and mostly cancelling each other out.  The bottle calls this "bitter-sweet harmony of tastes".  Worse, the signature pepper explosion on the palate is much diminished.  While the sherry cask does add some syrupy richness to Talisker and cannot completely kill off that great pepper explosion, it is primarily an unwelcome guest.  83 points (B-).

Other Talisker reviews:

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1 comment:

  1. Great post - you and I had a similar experience of Talisker 10 being the "wow" moment that got us into scotch! It's just that kind of dram.