The Talisker distillery is the only distillery operating on the Isle of Skye – a place so rocky, remote and foreboding it would make the perfect setting to uncover some Lovecraftian nightmare beneath the waves. Like the distillery itself the liquid is quiet, unapologetic and distinctly married to the ocean – a salty, crusty old sailor, but one whose company you won’t soon forget.
Talisker is considered a “must try” classic single malt after a beginner has cut their teeth on the easier Speysiders. Along with Coal Ila, Cragganmore, Ardbeg, Clynelish, Oban and others it promises a glimpse at one of the quintessential flavour profiles Scotland has to offer, making it particularly useful when trying to decode the components of a quality blend.
Raise anchor – we’re off to Skye. This one’s been a long time coming!
Okay, woah – they nailed the strength here. At nearly 46% the alcohol is strong and direct, complimenting the flavours without being sharp or overpowering. Integrated, crisp… the goldilocks zone of dilution vs. strength. Despite being at the mercy of Diageo-style mass production, they’ve resisted diluting it down to toddler levels. These guys know their whisky, and they know the best strength to deliver it.
First whiffs offer up some leather, lemon, grass and a “soft” peatiness – far less pungent than anticipated. “Rounded” and “smooth” (if those words mean anything to smell). There’s that fabled Talisker salt, some faint vanilla, pepper and a slightly out-of-place sweetness in the background. Overall: lovely. You could huff this stuff like glue.
Mild citrus, a little vanilla and a really vibrant, earthy peat. Not Ardbeg strong, but intense nonetheless. Tree bark, moss. Some fruit – raisins or plums. And a great tanginess… I want to say “fishy”, but that’s probably just my imagination. Finally, something meaty… smoked or cured, like parma ham. The finish is long, salty and bitter with plenty of smoke.
This cranky old sailor sure knows how to swim. That extra ABV helps, but it’s the combination of flavours that really takes to water. On the nose is gets a (strangely) enjoyable soapiness, and there’s a distinct roasting-braai-meat that wasn’t there before. In terms of taste, water gives it an incredible and highly rewarding development in flavour – herbal, earthy and even a little spicy. The peat takes centre stage, a little more clinical but delicious.
On a hunch I threw in some ice – you definitely want to try this.
I like to think of when and where I might find myself enjoying a particular whisky, and in this case Talisker 10 seems seriously versatile. Great for a lazy bout of Saturday day-drinking, a silent companion when you need to “get shit done”, an after-braai drink, or when you just want to sit back in your armchair and contemplate the horrors of the cosmos. One day when I muster up the effort to go fishing, Talisker 10 will be going with me.
If you factor in its water-handling abilities, Talisker 10 is also better value than it seems. This is a solid, enjoyable, complex single malt that deserves a little of your time and attention – and one of my favourite whiskies by far.