Yesterday I cracked open the Special Release of Talisker 15, Diageo’s contribution to world peace for 2019. Of course, I’m now entirely in “Talisker mode”, and figured it was high time I reviewed the rest of the range.
A friend and fellow whisky club member kindly loaned me his bottle of Talisker 18, an expression which for some reason has never made it to South African shelves. Bottled at the same 45.8% as the rest of its brethren (but offered up in a pitiful 700ml bottle) Talisker 18 is the only other age-stated expression in the core range. Together with the 10, it sits next to the non-age-stated Skye, Storm, Dark Storm (sigh) and Port Ruighe, making Talisker a far more NAS-heavy brand that one might expect.
Anyway, like many 18-year-old expressions, that extra age and extra price is spiced up with the promise of some sherry casks, although Diageo doesn’t state in precisely what proportions or refill status. We can dream.
Presumably Crayola has been added?
Aah, another one of those “sweet and peat” drams that seems to tick all the right boxes from the get-go. I seem to recall describing Lagavulin 16 the same way. Sherry is a fiendishly difficult thing to blend well with any significant proportion of peated malt, but I’m happy to say Talisker 18 seems to know how to do it – by which I mean, not overdoing it.
Noticably different from Talisker 10, that’s for sure. The peat is less punchy, having been traded for maple syrup and candy apples. So too is the oceanic, salty mojo a little harder to locate – but they’re there. Jelly babies. Bacon. Raisins.
As expected, deeeeelicious. Surprisingly chuggable neat – a much easier first impression than most other peated expressions, except for perhaps something like Paul John Edited. No water required!
You get a “rounded out” version of Talisker’s signature peat, but it’s the sweet component that takes center stage. Candy, and a sort of baked-goods quality. Like fresh doughnuts (mmm, doughnuts). Icing. I get some faint Glendronach vibes lurking at the back, with all-spice and plenty of vanilla. Something not too far from a peaty, punchy Blue Label (dodges thrown tomatoes).
The finish is really where the classic seaside flavours return, ending with a fairly drawn out seaweed and citrus ride. Awesome.
This is now my third tasting of Talisker 18, and I’m starting to get the impression that it’s best to treat it as a different creature entirely from Talisker 10. They share a lot of the same DNA, but they really do serve different purposes – in fact, I’d go so far as to say that if you’re looking for “Talisker 10, but better” you’ll be disappointed.
Instead, you get a significantly gentler, sweeter and more accessible drink – likely, one that will appeal to more people at first sip than its younger brother. Gone is the brooding, sinister sea monster in favour of something almost… friendly. Light. Happy?
Can it lure me away from the 10? If they were the same price and had the same availability I’d likely still be more tempted by the 10 on average, but the 18 makes a welcome change for more optimistic moods! Massive pedigree, excellent blending and brilliant outcome.