This is not a review that is intended to inform a purchase. I bought a bottle of this K&L Wines and Spirits -exclusive Talisker from Old Malt Cask awhile back, and only just recently dug it out of my cabinet to try. It’s long sold-out. I am reviewing this, instead, as a look at what you might expect from independent bottlings of very young peated malts, which seem to be appearing more and more on shelves as the older stuff disappears from warehouses.
Talisker 10 is one of my favorite drams of all time, and maybe #2 or #3 on my list of favorite peated malts. I’ve been (thus far) slightly less-than-impressed by any of the NAS expressions released by Diageo to capitalize on the popularity of the distillery, which is just fine with me because Talisker 10 can still be had for $50 a bottle. This Old Malt Cask bottling spoke to me: younger Talisker (with an age statement!), purportedly aged in sherry, bottled at a potent 100 proof, and only $40. The malt was just one month shy of 7 years of age, and bottled in 2016 without added coloring or chill filtration. Only 361 bottles were filled out of this single sherry hogshead.
Nose: Fishy peat with a heap of black peppercorn, thin malty grain, and chalky minerals. Seaspray and absolutely no sherry whatsoever. Complex, young, and fiery.
Palate: Thin body. Aggressive tongue burn, which clears slowly to reveal some vanilla sweetness, sea-salt caramels, and a drifting hazy fugue of peat – like being in a cold-smoker cabinet after the fire has gone out.
Finish: Long. More of that salty caramel, now with a seaweed chaser (yum!). More black pepper and now some tobacco. Fades very slowly to a dry, cigarette-like smoke, which is somewhat acrid.
With Water: A few drops of water release a lemon peel (verging on Lemon Pledge) note, which conflicts oddly with the fish (ok, ok, “brine”) notes. It does, however, tame the fieriness a bit. I can see wanting a little water for that reason.
Overall: Man, this is really not good. But at $40, I also really can’t complain. This confirms two suspicions that I’ve had: One, that ultra-young peated malts contain more peat flavor than their standard 10- and 12-year elder siblings. Two, that there’s a reason peated malts are usually released at 10 or 12 years of age. The smoke and peat and brine need some time to integrate, to mellow, and to lose that brash, acrid aspect. Unfortunately, this may as well have been aged in cardboard for all the total and complete lack of sherry character. The label might as well have just said “aged in a barrel”.
It IS fascinating to see not-ready-for-prime-time Talisker, though, and I’m happy to only have paid $40 for a ticket. I can’t ever imagine being in the mood for a glass of this, unless maybe when I’m mad at myself for something. They could put that on the bottle.
Seriously, though, I can’t recommend anyone buy this, even if it were still available. I do think it would be possible to develop a taste for “rough” and cheap peated malt… although you’re really only saving $10 to $20 per bottle and getting a lot less quality. Bottles like this are in the same vein as Finlaggan Old Reserve and other bottom-shelf peated malts, except that the transparency of the indie bottling is refreshing. Nobody is trying to pass this off as anything but what it is.