I kind of like Talisker. Always have, probably always will. However, I don’t like ‘everything’ Talisker. As in, their NAS releases, Storm, Dark Storm, Port Ruighe, Skye and probably some others that I can’t remember from the top of my head are a bit pointless to me. Of course, they sell, so there’s a market for them, but I just can’t really give a crap.
Now then, when they release a special one in autumn, like Diageo does every year, and there’s sort-of-affordable Talisker in the mix, I tend to pick up a bottle for sharing. This is how I ended up with both the 2021 and 2022 release.
Coincidentally to me, I didn’t realize their peating approaches were opposites for these releases, one is from heavily peated stocks, and the other from a significantly lighter approach.
That sounds like a nice head-to-head, so here it goes!
Talisker 8, Heavily Peated Refill Casks, 59.7% – Special Release 2021
There’s quite some vanilla from the start. After that, there’s brine and, strangely, a hint of aniseed and licorice. Warming smoke and oak, with a gentle sweet touch.
It bites with the high ABV, and the typical note of black pepper is present too. A sharp oakiness, and a sharp sort of smoke.
The finish ramps up the coastal flavors and salinity hugely. A lot of brine, sandy beaches and salt.
While this is a nice enough whisky, I’m a bit confused by it. It’s a bit like Talisker is trying to imitate Ardbeg or Ledaig, with the amped up peating levels. It doesn’t really suit the style all that well. I think the whisky itself is a bit too subtle for the peating levels. The massive ABV doesn’t really help either, and makes for a rather hot and peppery whisky. Still, as said, nice enough. It still is quite Talisker like and the note of aniseed on the nose was nice!
Still available for about € 90-ish
Talisker 11, Lightly Peated Stocks, 55.1% – Special Release 2022
A very subtle smokiness, which (maybe this is inverted from reality) reminds me of Torabhaig. The smokiness is quite light and a bit more crisp than in regular Talisker. Some salinity, smoldering embers, marram grass and wet tree bark. Some ash too.
The palate is quite dry and spicy. There’s white pepper, oak shavings, straw. The smokiness is here too. Even though it’s supposed to be lightly peated, it tastes like it’s ‘differently peated’. Embers, marram grass, quite coastal, but also rather foresty.
The finish is more mellow than I expected. Still dry, and there’s definitely some bite left. It’s also a bit more spirity, which is anything but a bad thing. Peat, earthy notes. Marram grass and washed up trees.
This lower level of smokiness suits the whisky much better, as does the slightly less hot ABV. There’s more room for the spirit to give more nuanced notes, and makes it more representative of the Isle of Skye. More foresty notes, more wood like and such. It still retains the coastal notes as well, and that makes for a nice combination of flavors!
Available for about € 110