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…
…now they’ve added a permanent port-finished NAS expression with the double-entendre of a name, “Port Ruighe”. … Suffice it to say this is NAS Talisker aged in a combination of casks including ex-bourbon, refill European oak, and casks with a “heavy char”. The whisky is then finished in port casks and bottled at Talisker’s standard 45.8% ABV.
Turns out I wasn’t 100% off, as the sample turned out to be Té Bheag (pronounced ‘chey vek’), a blended scotch with a big peated malt component made by Pràban na Linne Ltd. on the Isle of Skye.
Well, that’s Talisker all right. A big, brutish dram with most of the complexity on the nose. It definitely delivers everything you’d expect from nearly-cask-strength Talisker. If you’re already a Talisker fan, then you’re ready to try this.
Wemyss Malts has a line of romantically-named blended malts in ages 5, 8, and 12 years old. Each includes a ‘key ingredient’ to define its character and justify its name, as well as up to 16 other malts. I tried The Spice King (spices courtesy of a heavy dose of Talisker) at tonight’s K&L Wednesday spirits tasting in Redwood City, CA.
Isle of Skye, despite the name, is a blended scotch containing whisky from several areas of Scotland. Indeed, a proportion of Talisker is represented, as well as a blend of gentler Speyside malts, some Island malt, and some grain whisky. According to the bottler the youngest whisky is 8 years old but the blend contains some “much older” whisky. The blend is aged in an ex-bourbon barrel and bottled at 43% ABV.
The peat flavors that made Islay famous for their intensity here instead get equal billing with sturdy oak and lusciously sweet malt. I could wish a little less bitterness on the tail end, but this is totally Talisker, and substantially more smooth and finessed than the 10 year-old.
When your liquor cabinet is bursting at the seams, maybe consider winnowing your bottle count down by “covering the bases” of all the major types of malt whisky, and keeping just one bottle in each category: Peated, Sherried, Lowlander, Wine Finish, Talisker (Skye), Cask Strength, Heathery, World (Irish).
Talisker’s peat provides a background of earthiness that matches its rocky flavors. As this is one of the more complex of whiskies, it may take some getting used to. Once you can appreciate it, though, nothing beats Talisker for relief at the end of a hard day.