[WHISKY TASTING] Stunning balance from the rugged Isle of Skye 💧
The enchanting Isle of Skye is the largest island of the Inner Hebrides off Scotland's rugged west coast. I visited Skye and it's largest town Portree last time in 2011, and it's hard not to be mesmerized by the majestic peaks of the Cuillin Hills, the magical and seemingly impossible rock formations, and the steep slopes down into the ocean depths even the third time around. The hiking trails of the island each year attracts large quantities of adventurous and eager hikers and cyclists from all over the world, more or less equipped against the legions of bloodthirsty midges. This also makes Talisker, the only distillery on the island, into a veritable tourist magnet and one of the most visited distilleries in all of Scotland.
The bridge that connects the mainland with the western side of the isle has definitely made it easier for visitors to find the remote Talisker distillery that is located in the middle of nowhere on the shores of a deeply indented bay on the west coast, near the village of Carbost. It's well worth a visit even if you're not the least interested in whisky. The name Talisker refers to the nearby hill Talamh Sgeir, which basically means Echo rock. The distillery was founded in 1830 by the brothers Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill, sons of the local doctor, in an area that had seen many people driven out of their ancestral homes in a sad chapter of Scotland's history called "The Highland Clearances". The ancient clan system was over when landlords ruthlessly began to make room for profitable sheep farming. The crofters were evicted from their homes and houses were set on fire. Old men and women were placed in poorhouses and many others were forced to board ships to North America or Australia.
The distillery is today owned by Diageo. Most of what is produced at Talisker is nowadays transported by tankers to Diageo's large storage facilities on the mainland. Only a small portion is matured in the distillery's own warehouses. A lion's share of the output ends up in Johnnie Walker. Unfortunately the whisky is both artificially colored with spirit caramel and chill filtered; something that is to expect from a distillery owned by a huge multinational company as Diaego.
Talisker is usually a fairly smoky whisky, but more restrained in the smoke than many of its cousins from the isle of Islay. A certain oiliness fills the mouth, and very often maritime elements such as seaweed and iodine is emphasized in both nose and taste. But perhaps above all Talisker is known for its unique peppery flavor. Aside from their age statement whisky's of 10, 18, 25, 30 year old's (as well as the Distillers Edition), their range today consist of a number of No Age Statement whisky's called Skye, Neist Point, Storm, Dark Storm, Port Ruighe, 57 Degrees North.
Age: 18 yo
Phenol level: ~22 ppm
Region: Highlands (Isle of Skye)
Price: Around 75-80 USD
Talisker 18 is bottled at a modest 45.8%. The malt is smoked to somewhere between 18 and 22 ppm of phenols, and the final product probably lands on a much smaller amount of phenols than that. It has been matured in a combination of European oak ex-Sherry casks and American oak ex-bourbon casks. As I said it's colored with caramel, which is a pity, because I would have a preference a naturally crafted whisky.
🐽 Nose: Light and elegant smoke, honey sweetness and clean ocean air.
👅 Palate: Tart fruit of cherries and raspberries, maltiness, caramel, sweet lemon juice and a floral note of heather. The intense pepperiness is tamed by the honey and oiliness that covers the tongue. The pepper most likely comes from the European oak, which is then mellowed by the smoother American oak. Slightly nutty bitterness, almost like hazelnuts (or a nougat made of hazelnuts), immediately balanced with the saltiness. Some day I just have to try to roast some lightly salted hazelnuts!
🏁 Finish: Long sweet finish. The faint smoke you have in the nose, remains for a long while on the tongue.
💡 Conclusion: The 18-year-old is far more gentle and more rounded than the much smokier 10-year-old; the additional eight years of maturation has definitely done its part! I would say that this stunningly well-balanced whisky is a perfect introduction to the world of smoky malt's, before you try the smoke monsters of Islay. A solid 88 points.