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Monday, 7 April 2008

Tally ho! Tasting the Talisker 10, 12, 18 and 57 Degrees North.

Filed by Joel.
After struggling past the Champions League football on telly Neil from the Blog, Tim from The Whisky Exchange and I found ourselves around a dining room table in South London last week with nothing for company except a selection of Skye's finest whisky; Talisker. With two standard releases in the 10 and the ("award winning") 18, and two new and interesting bottlings in the form of the Friends-of-the-Classic-Malts-only 12 year old and the travel-retail-exclusive 57 Degrees North (a name which Diageo have seen fit to trademark; I kid you not!) we were in for an exciting evening.

The following consists of our combined tasting notes from the evening (let's be honest, they are mainly Tim's!), interjected with our slightly odd thought patterns throughout the evening... we hope you enjoy.

Talisker - OB - 10 YO - 45.8%

Nose: Waxy at first with apple blossom, carrot juice, flapjacks, some earthy peat, honey, spices & a faint hint of wet cardboard. Some bready notes. Enticing and perfectly balanced.

Palate: Massive, beautiful attack of spices and peat, much more prominent than on the nose. Eventually the oaty and malty notes from the nose come through - honeyed porridge, some biscuit flavours. But the pepper, muscular peat and hot chilli notes are dominant in a positive way. Hints of cherry and honey come though.

Finish: A slow fade, becoming sweeter and almost floral, though the spices and peat are still tingling on the tongue at the death.

Overall: An excellent whisky, not just for the money (c.£29.99 if not cheaper in places) but for the overall experience. Yes, it is a whole eight years younger than the 18, but it is also a whole £15 cheaper too. Excellent stuff. Don't overlook!

Talisker - OB - 12 YO - bottled in 2007 - 45.8% - limited release for "Friends Of Classic Malts" - bottle number 18775

Released to celebrate a decade of Friends of the Classic Malts, this 12 year old is "Limited" to 21,500 and can be bought for £44.50 (inc delivery) which is around the same price as the 18 YO. This bottling can only be bought from (which takes you direct to Loch Fyne's website) where, at time of writing there were still bottles to be had.

Nose: Like an exaggerated version of the 10YO, which is to say a more intense combination of bready cereals, raw peat, honey and spices but with a greater hit of spirit. Really, what's not to like?

Palate: Again, this is like the 10YO turned up a notch a la Spinal Tap - it's one louder. Big cereal, intense spice, but well-balanced with a mouthwatering sweet note. The fiery spice keeps coming, with the classic Talisker combo of white pepper and red chilli and some delicious toasty flavours. This is epic stuff. A large dollop of sea salt to boost the flavours also hits in.

Finish: The honey smooths everything out as the spice slowly fades. Polished oak floats in right at the death. Demands another glass.

Overall: Less austere than the 10YO, with a more generous dollop of honey. Actually, a more generous dollop of everything. A tremendous bottling, and an essential for Tally fans if not a little too salty.

Talisker - OB - 18 YO - 45.8%

This whisky needs no introduction, having won the World Whiskies Award 2007 for "Best Single Malt Whisky In The World". The bar has undoubtly been set very high with this and it sparked the first major debate of the evening (a minor debate earlier about the colour selection by Talisker of the foils used on the bottles, and the inconsistency therein...) with Tim and Neil nailing their flags to the mast with their love of this Talisker. I, on the other hand, feel the Lagavulin 16 is a better single malt. What else could we to do other than to pour a dram of the Lagga 16 and try it along side the Tally 18? Alas, we shall not be doing tasting notes of the Lagga 16 other than to say that the choice is indeed yours... personally I side on the farmyard aspects of the Lagga 16 for a solid bottle of Whisky under £50, where as Neil and Tim would go for the Talisker 18. With that, let's get on with the tasting notes:

Nose: More expressive than the 10yo, yet more subtle than the 12yo, this is a thing of beauty. The pepper and spices are an ever-present, along with a rich peat reek, but the emphasis on the honey is more noticeable in this version than in either of the 10yo or the 12 yo expressions. Sumptuous, and so perfectly balanced as to be almost mesmeric.

Palate: More gutsy than one might expect from the ethereally beautiful nose but with a real softness. Plenty of oomph from the pepper, but with delicious sweet notes (slightly burnt brown sugar, a la the crunchy top of a Crème Brûlée), a hint of orangey citrus fruit (younger citrus, with a slight tart nature) and a tangy brininess. This is more approachable than the 10yo and has an intricacy and elegance that takes this Talisker to the next level. Just an incredibly enjoyable dram.

Finish: A delicious fusion of honey, spice and fruit that lingers on before gracefully fading.

Comments: An instant classic on release and shows no signs of slowing down in its relentless conquest of the affections of malt fans everywhere (except for the Lagavulin 16! - Joel)

Talisker - OB - NAS - 57 Degrees North - 57% Vol - Duty Free Only - 1L bottle

A new cask strength (yes, we like!) duty free only bottling from Diageo. Why? We don't quite know why. Just because they can, probably! At £43 for a litre, it is isn't too badly priced. Sadly it is No Age Statement, but it tastes like there is some young whisky in there ( 6 - 8 years old may be?).

Nose: Quite fruity, initially, with fresh-squeezed orange juice and ripe apple notes. Prominent cereal / wet hay notes point to the relative youth of this product as compared to the rest of the range. Then a hint of caramel, toffee and finally the peat and red chilli notes that one expects from a Talisker.

Palate: Inital heat and power from the strength and the chilli intensity. A big hit of sweet toffee flavours, presumably from added caramel. Still extremely hot and intensely peppery and spicy. Some shortbread and digestive biscuit-style flavours come through with time.

Finish: Still carried along by the raw power of undiluted Talisker hot spices and a lot of briny seaspray. The balance is not quite there, knocked off-kilter by the extra strength. A drop of water reveals a more fruity side, but the toffee and brine remain.

Comment: Tasted after the 18yo, which is a very tough act to follow and perhaps makes it harder for this to really impress. The palate seemed dulled slightly by perhaps a smidgin too much caramel flavouring, while the finish seemed a touch too salty. Good but bottom of the list on todays results.

Tasting notes by Tim (mainly), Joel and Neil.