In 2021 I found a guy on the internet that was selling sample sets of Talisker 10. Nothing too spectacular, except for the wide range of vintages he was selling them from. Of course I got a set, and then never took the time to sit down for the whiskies until very recently.
What’s interesting about Talisker, apart from being a cool distillery in an even cooler location, is that the consensus among whisky geeks is that their outturn is rather inconsistent. Some batches are very good, some are bad, but in the end they seem to be unpredictable and have a huge bandwidth in which they release stuff.
I’m not sure whether that’s the quality of the whisky itself over the years, or that they have an inconsistent blending team or what is happening. What I do know is that before you buy a Talisker 18, you ought to try it. The same goes for Talisker 10, but luckily, these are a lot more affordable than the 18.
Anyway, Talisker 10 then. From a long time ago to very recently. Let’s go!
Talisker 10, bottled in 1998, 45.8%
A surprisingly heavy nose with smoky diesel notes, barley and peat. A bit earthy, and very different to the newer batches. Slightly yeasty with oak and a little bit of vanilla. It does get a little bit lighter after a few minutes.
The palate is very oily and quite rich. The typical bite of black pepper is present too, with a bit of banana and baked apple. There’s not too much smoke, but the smoke that is there is far richer than any contemporary smokiness.
The finish is rich again, with pepper and diesely smoke. It gets a little bit more dry towards the end and there’s a syrupy sweetness going on with hints of banana and soil.
Surprisingly rich, complex and un-coastal. This is really an old fashioned dram. A lot of flavors are showing up that don’t seem to exist anymore in contemporary whiskies, and I love it for it. Absolutely gorgeous.
Note: As suggested by a friend, this is most likely not the correct bottle. I do believe the whisky statistics are correct, but it would have been a green bottle at 75cl instead of a clear on at 70cl.
Talisker 10, bottled in 2004, 45.8%
Compared to the 1988 it is a far more straight forward whisky. There’s some smoke, but it’s not very pronounced and has more of a coastal note than what came before. A little bit more vanilla, but still it’s very timid. All notes are a bit toned down.
Lots of pepper on the palate, and a very timid smokiness. The smoke does get a bit more oomph after a few seconds. There’s dry oak, a bit of a fruity syrupy note with a hint of unripe banana.
A not very long finish, but one that showcases the flavors that came before again, albeit more gently. More coastal than before.
This is a whisky that already feels a lot more ‘directed’ compared to the previous one. That 1988 bottling felt more like it was happenstance to turn out like this. This is way more modern and guided to a desired flavor profile. Still quite good, with a lot of flavors to be uncovered, for such an ‘entry level dram’.
Talisker 10, bottled in 2016, 45.8%
Suddenly, we’ve leapt into a different whisky all together. While still slightly smoky it focuses much more on the coastal notes, but also smells surprisingly chemical. There’s not a lot of pepper and quite a bit of wine gummy sweetness.
The palate is peppery again, as you would expect from Talisker. It’s quite a biter, surprisingly. Vanilla, oak, some barley. Of course, the expected whiff of smoke too.
The finish shows mostly pepper and a little bit of smoke. The drying notes of barley and straw are suppressed by those two flavors.
While the coastal re-focus is interesting, the chemical notes put me off a bit. This is what I meant in the introduction about these bad batches. And no, it’s not ‘bad’, but it’s comparatively bad. As in, I would be bummed out if I bought this bottle because I liked Talisker 10 a couple years before and expected the same level of quality.
All in all, a pretty decent dram, but nothing spectacular.
“Made by the Sea”. Maybe next time get a blender involved too…
Talisker 10, bottled in 2021, 45.8%
The fourth Talisker 10 in a row is more robust again. The pepper is toned down a little bit, but there’s more oak and barley. Also, there’s far less sweetness, and a whiff of washed up wood and therefore slightly more coastal notes.
The palate is gentle, and is quite dry with oak, salinity and straw. The pepper does show up with a bit of a vengeance if you let it swim for a while.
The finish has a linger flavor of black pepper with its bite. Quite a bit longer than the 2016 one.
Luckily we close out this session with an upward direction. This batch is a lot more impressive than the previous one. A lot less chemically sweet, which definitely makes it a better whisky in my book.
The results are quite obvious in my opinion. The only one that doesn’t really belong is the third one, the 2016 bottling. That still has some of the tell-tale flavors and aromas for Talisker, but there’s something weird happening that I don’t like. The other ones are quintessential whiskies of their respective time period, I think. As in, Talisker 10 has always been a good entry level whisky, and apart form a random worse batch, it’s still a fun dram to drink.
Unfortunately, those versions from decades ago, with 1970s distillate like the 1988 bottling obviously have, have become quite expensive. Although, I guess that dram is better than many a similarly priced dram that is a more recent release.