Talisker Skye

Monday, April 17, 2017



Regulars will know that I’m on the Isle of Skye at least once a year, if not more. It’s a stunning part of Scotland and with bridge access nowadays easily reachable and yet still retains its own character; almost a country within a country. The fact that Talisker is nearby where we call our second home is just a marvellous coincidence, or that’s my story to the missus.

For the 2017 residency, I wanted to take advantage of the inspiring surroundings and sit down with a bottle of Talisker over several days in the cottage. Previously I put together this excellent Talisker Vertical Tasting that was a worthwhile exercise. Apart from highlighting just how impressive the age statements are generally, it also underlined the disappointment I feel whenever I spend time with one of the several No Age Statement Taliskers.

Recently reviewing a tasty Talisker from Douglas Laing bottled at just 7 years of age it showed the distillery can deliver at the youthful end of the scale. This begs the question why your Dark Storm, Storm, Skye and whatever else has been released this month fail to deliver? I’d also question the sheer amount of colouring Diageo are pouring into these releases and why not just produce a coloured bottle? Once in the glass, I don’t care about the colour, hence my inventiveness when trying to sum up this characteristic for each review.

Then I experienced one of those moments of revelation, a eureka moment if you will. Without knowing it I had actually realised why Diageo have produced so many No Age Statement releases for this distillery. It’s not to increase sales, awareness or keep their blenders occupied. No, for the past couple of years’ ladies and gentlemen those cunning men in black suits have engaged in an intellectual property land grab. Much like the moon landings where a flag was placed with a statement of intent, Diageo have been quietly ticking off, one-by-one, anything to do with the Isle of Skye. It’s a brilliant scheme but I’ve figured it out and it’s about time we put an end to this practice.


You see there’s always been this claim that Talisker is the only distillery on Skye even with another distillery mooted for the southern end of the Isle since the dawn of time itself. Yes, it’s been coming longer than a Nicola Sturgeon makeover. However finally Torabhaig is about to go into production, whilst sadly Nicola is still waiting for the 1980’s. To thwart the threat of another distillery, Talisker has systematically removed naming options for Torabhaig releases with remarkable efficiency. Gone is the compass option, names of major Skye settlements, local landmarks and even the bloody weather!

Now comes the final masterstroke with the name of the island itself and hell who cares there’s a well-established blended Scotch whisky on the market already called the Isle of Skye. Nothing stops a Diageo masterplan (insert cunning, evil laughter here) and I’m spending a few days with this concept on Skye. Released in 2015, on paper it’s intended to offer an easy drinking alternative to the classic 10-year-old; a fear being that Diageo would like to kill off this classic age statement, but they’ve sought to dampen the rumours and manage what limited inventory they have. The casks used for this Skye bottling are a combination of ex-bourbon barrels and freshly charred casks. Bottled at a reasonable 45.8% strength, this one retails around £40 although you may find it discounted in supermarkets. I actually picked it up online for £25 which for a No Age Statement seems a more realistic price compared to the 10-year-old. If Diageo disagrees and is reading this, then please give us more detail about what goes into such bottlings. I’d expect this to be 5 years in age and aggressively matured.

Sitting in this wonderful cottage, gazing out across Skye I cannot help but feel compelled to gush praise about any Talisker. It’s an intoxicating environment, truly a jewel in Scotland’s formidable arsenal of beauty, but as ever it’s down to the whisky experience…

Colour: T-cut scratch remover
Nose:  from the off its smoked marmalade before flicking into cinder toffee with the emphasis on caramelisation. Underneath there is a salty fish aspect fighting for some of the limelight with memories of lifting driftwood off the beach. A malted bread, some walnuts and eventually it comes to me as ham hock. Water or should I say local Skye water, brings out more of the brine and wood remnants from a fireplace.  
Taste: a peppery caramel followed by a splash of sea salt. A charcoal dusting with more of the walnuts from the nose. It’s a lightweight Talisker so far with boldness up front but little substance beyond this. We’ll try some water. Mmmm, it doesn’t hold up well to water suggesting a youthfulness and fragility.  

Overall: I think it’d be easy to bash this Talisker Skye if I had paid £40-£45 for it at retail. I’d be levelling it into the foundations and scathing. However, at £25 it’s more reasonable and it seems to be heavily discounted at supermarkets currently. I prefer this Skye over the 57 North bottling, but it is walking a tightrope and offers just enough to be a cheap session drammer and little else.  

If you do see this for anything more than £25 then please avoid as its overpriced. Perhaps its the romantic setting on Skye as I type this, the vital ingredient of local water or I have a blind spot for Talisker. Sadly all of this was shattered by the Neist Point bottling that is even more expensive.
 

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