As best man at my friend Mike’s wedding this summer, it was my job to select some whiskies for the bachelor party. As far as special occasion whiskies go, it’s hard to beat Talisker 18 and The Macallan 18 (set your mouth on fire with some peaty Talisker goodness and then put it out with a blanket of smooth sherry-bomb Macallan. Oh yes). While this is not the kind of thing I’d recommend buying on a consistent basis, it’s an excellent way to mark the big moments in life. Those extra 8 years in the barrel (see my review of Talisker 10 here, still one of my favorite whiskies ever) really plumb the depths of what Talisker is capable of.
Nose: Evident peat and hardwood smoke, warm malty overtones with very well-integrated cask wood. Everything is harmonious – peat and malt and wood. A truly excellent ex-bourbon peated Scotch nose. Deeper in there is a bit of minerality: ‘sharp’ salty notes (although not savory), like salted caramels. The smoke is uniquely Talisker – not tarry or piney, but sweet and round: like a hardwood fire in full blaze.
Palate: Malty upfront, with the smoke sneaking in behind to fill your sinuses. A long, slow burn with a rocky edge from the hard water. Trailing off, there is a bit of bitterness, perhaps the barrel char showing through.
Finish: Long, with marshmallow, peat smoke verging on the wet, acrid side, and more of the bitter charcoal. Not much wood tannin. Some of that crispness from the hard water remains in your mouth. A younger finish than I’d expect from an 18 year-old.
Overall: It’s hard not to love Talisker. 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. I can’t love the price, but for a special-occasion whisky, it’s hard to beat. If I had unlimited money, I’d drink this once a week.
Water: A few drops of water don’t seem to diminish anything about this whisky, and they may crisp up the peat smoke a bit – adding some nice hay and lime notes to the nose. Worth a try, but don’t do it if you’ve only got one glass.