You know how it is… a friend brings over a bottle of something they’ve just purchased-slash-received as a gift-slash-stolen from a third friend’s liquor cabinet. You eye it, knowing you want to study a glass of it and take notes, but that you’d take a ribbing for it if you tried to do so in the presence of your friend. So, you cleverly ask if you can pour out two ounces into a little glass bottle you just happen to have sitting around, cleaned and blank-labelled. Doesn’t everybody have clean little sample bottles just lying around? So you squirrel the sample away and proceed to binge-drink the rest of the bottle with your friends, waking up with no memory whatsoever of the aroma, palate, or finish of the liquid that is now making your head pound. You’ve also forgotten that little sample bottle stashed in your liquor cabinet. Thank God you remembered to label it.
Fast-forward, oh, four years or so and you unearth this little archeological find while trying to squeeze a new purchase into your groaning cabinet. Oops. You forgot to review it. I mean, whisky on the shelf now can’t be that different from bottles sold four years ago, right? (Spoiler: It can.) Surely your readers will forgive a slight gap between the bottling date and the review date, right? (Spoiler: They won’t.) Oh well. Here I go anyway.
I like Talisker. I like it a lot. And, uncharacteristically, I’ve not been totally against releases where they mess with that pure Talisker goodness with wine casks and whatnot. (Except Storm. Let’s just not talk about Storm.) The Distillers Editions from Diageo typically take the big-budget action heroes of the Diageo lineup and then proceed to drown them in sweet wine. Sometimes this works. Sometimes not so much. Here, they take the standard Talisker (aged in ex-bourbon barrels) and finish it in amoroso sherry casks for somewhere around a year. My bottle was distilled in 2002 and bottled in 2013, which means (even without a big number on the front label) that it’s at least 10 years old.
Nose: Exactly what you think it will smell like. Salty, briny, chalky Talisker, complete with briny, seaweed-flecked peat smoke, layered with a blanket of soft red fruits and raisin-y sherry. Some decadent vanilla (like melted ice cream) underlies the two. A rest in the glass improves the integration of these contrasting aromas.
Palate: Talisker’s signature briny peat hits the tongue first, evoking seaspray and driftwood campfires, and the taste of dried saltwater on your lips. This is immediately followed by a wave of jammy sherry, nougat, and grilled fruit (are grilled plums a thing?).
Finish: Long. Again, the two halves of the experience fade in tandem, both raisin-y and smoky, sweet and peat, at the end showing a final oaky drying tannin.
With Water: A few drops of water dampen the peat, and release a fog of vanilla. I’d skip the water.
Overall: A satisfying experience. If you like Talisker (but are not some raving peat purity nut), you are likely to enjoy Talisker sweetened and contrasted with this particular sherry. The pliability of the jammy flavors yield to the harder, aggressive smoke notes, but are not overwhelmed. The smoke, luckily, does not appear to be diminished. This is like seeing a tough, intimidating, macho, alpha male friend petting a froofy dog. The softer side of Talisker, if you will, and one of the relatively few successful marriages of peat and wine that I’ve had. (My recent bottle of Laphroaig Cairdeas is another.) Apologies for the extraordinarily late review, but if you’ve been considering looking at a more recent release of the Talisker DE, you can at least take this review as a baseline. I doubt Diageo has thoroughly screwed up the expression since 2013, right? Right?