In 2013, around the beginning of the NAS craze, Diageo released Talisker Storm to much marketing fanfare and an initial retail price of around $70 – $80. The only difference between it and the flagship Talisker 10, a perennial favorite, was the lack of an age statement and the use of (some) re-charred ex-bourbon casks…
Talisker 8 is a very limited edition cask-strength (59.4% ABV) batch of the familiar Talisker 10 except at 8 years, which is a bit of a reference to earlier 1980s bottlings of Talisker that were released at that age (although not at that strength). The whisky was aged in first-fill ex-bourbon American oak barrels that were “deep charred”, whatever that means…
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.
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.
A nose overly dominant with peat is improved by better balance on the tongue and in the finish. While still less focused and more “dirty” (in the sense of the assorted unpleasant side-effects of peat) than similarly-priced Islays, there is reasonable complexity.
This is akin to 10 year-old Springbank in many ways – from the earthy “not quite smokey” peat, to the industrial oily notes, and the emphasis on barrel char. At around $55, there isn’t a lot of reason to recommend this 10 year-old.
Before you can taste it, though, you’ve got to know how to pick a whisky to try! This post will focus on single-malt scotch, which I think is the best possible place to get your bearings in the wider world of whisky.