On to the next one! At the same time as I was pondering Talisker Storm yesterday, I had right next to it an equal measure of Talisker Skye, another NAS bottling released a few years later.
Like Storm, it’s tough to say precisely what’s going on in the bottle – what production methods have been tweaked or changed apart from (again!) mention of charred refill American oak casks. I have no doubt that visitors to the distillery or questions fired at brand ambassadors would produce clear and honest answers, but there is very little to discover either on the bottle or the website.
So it’s called Skye, named after the beautiful isle on which the distillery resides, and until recently the only distillery in the region. Torabhaig is the pimple-faced newcomer, having begun production in 2017 and stealing a little of Talisker’s geographical thunder. Other than that… it’s a Talisker!
Okay, here we have some differences! Certainly when using Talisker 10 as a benchmark.
Right away it’s clear that this is “lighter” in every way. The peat – still a dominant force – is nevertheless subdued, “rounded over” and treated as a equal player alongside the something new: A heavy bourbon influence. A strong note of toasted, buttery bread shares the spotlight with the smoke, with a heavy vanilla essence and white chocolate.
Right. Okay… I have a strange relationship with pastry and bread. It goes without saying the the majority of the time nothing beats a fresh roll or a piping hot pie. But sometimes, just sometimes – I get this weirded out reaction to that intense bready taste – a strength of pure, yeasty oiliness that induces a mild nausea.
Talisker Skye is very bready. There’s a great chance that you’ll like that about it, but for me – yoh, it’s a bit much. It is decadently rich, making each sip feel like a real investment. If Talisker 10 is the fish, then Talisker Skye is the chips. And I’m just not entirely sure that this buttery quality fits the rest of the standard Talisker flavours.
It is also much sweeter than you might expect. A raw, white sugar sweetness that holds everything together quite well (in particular as a vehicle for the peat and brine) but which again is just far too intense. It smothers whatever else might be lurking in the bottom of the glass.
While the Isle of Skye may have weathered many a storm (ha!), Talisker Skye drowns at the first opportunity. Neat!
Where we get sweet on the taste, we end with heavily bitter on the finish. It isn’t on the wrong side of bitter – quite pleasant – more orange rind than oranges. That queasy, oily pastry doesn’t seem to go away though.
If the goal was to make a more accessible version of Talisker, I think Skye misses the mark. Ardbeg An Oa showed us that making a “lighter style” can be achieved without sacrificing the core qualities of the house style, and certainly without swinging the needle entirely in the wrong direction. The cutting sweetness and out of place “young bourbon” influence isn’t doing the mighty Talisker any justice, and if anything I fear this would turn people away from trying the 10.
Talisker Skye is not bad whisky… But I’d never be tempted to pick one up.