“The king o’ drinks, as I conceive it, Talisker, Isla, or Glenlivet.”
…so sayeth Robert Louis Stevenson. King? Perhaps not, but a princely dram to be sure.
I’m sure it is becoming abundantly clear, I like peat. It is highly possible that someone could run over my dog, date my sister and flirt with my wife…as long as their apology included a bottle of something smoky. (Don’t get any ideas, boys). Just as with my coffee (strong and black), my wine (fat and oaky) and my beer (skunky and Euro, please), I like my whisky to have distinction and character. That is what my extra dollars go towards.
In order to truly appreciate those big smoky, phenolic bastards though, one must have certain benchmarks against which to measure. I can appreciate most any well-made whisky, but I have a few favorites against which I measure others. Talisker 10 is just such a one. It is complex enough to please a discerning palate, yet not intimidating enough to bruise the sensitivities of a whisky noob. Smoke? A little, yeah.
Talisker 10 is a mildly/moderately peated whisky from the Isle of Skye. Heavier PPM (parts per million) than the average malt, but not in league with the bullies from Islay. The true beauty? It’s not so phenolic that one couldn’t be enticed to a daily dram. Often the big boys (Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Ardbeg) are occasional sippers and a little too beefy to be an everyday bottle (not to mention the beating they give your wallet). Talisker has crafted a beautiful profile that has that peaty goodness I crave, but also a tastefully tamed balance against the lighter notes.
This is no obscene beast of a peated whisky. Trust me when I say that it is much milder and approachable than the following notes would suggest.
Nose: Peat and pepper. Light sandalwood notes, and maybe a l’il vanilla. Faint bit of plum. Sharp lemon. Briny and expectedly coastal. Hay. Still rather sweet, though less so than previous vintages (and this one is a couple years old too!).
Palate: Gale force arrival. Like shutter doors slamming in an oceanic storm. Peat and a big peppery bite. Cereals. A mouthful of seawater and rocks. Keylime pie. Ginger. More citric bite. Second wave of pepper and spice at the back before it ebbs into cereal notes. Fairly drying.
Thoughts: A lesser malt than earlier incarnations, it’s true, but still a standby ’round here. Has taken a media-drubbing in recent years, and it has dropped off in terms of quality, but it’s still one of the best 10s on the market.
*Updated 3 August 2014
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt
This was the first single malt I ever bought because I saw a 200ml bottle of it. Absolutely love this stuff except after about 6 months of drinking this I’ve come to taste an overpowering sweet black raisin flavour that I don’t like 😦 Now I need to wait a few weeks before I pour another dram and get back the dusty, smoky and peaty smells I first enjoyed. Still love it though.
Wow! I reread your review before starting my comment and hope I don’t come off as an ass, or at least not too big of an ass.
I just picked up 3 bottles of Evan Williams Single Barrel 9 years and 355 days old bourbon. Unfortunately I am way past the limits of my cabinet, so I need to finish off some less desireble bottles. Talisker 10 and Laphroaig 10 are the losers. However, I don’t like them enough to drink every day, so I had a thought (rare!). Mix them 50-50 like I sometimes do tal 10 and CI 12 ( a Ralfy suggestion). Must say it’s pretty good and much better (to me) than either alone. Is this nuts?
Not nuts at all!
I had small amounts of A’Bunadh 38, Aberlour 18 year old and Dalwhinnie. The first was a little too green, and the other two had been open too long. I mixed them together (50% Dalwhinnie) and then later added half a sample bottle of Glenlivet 12 I had opened for my cousin. 2 weeks later and my Whisky club thought it Avery drinkable blended malt.
Ralfy had no comment…
Talisker 10 is one of the malts that may be on the slide. Whether this is because of the final loss of bonus years beyond 10 (which I would have thought long gone by now), casking or other factors is hard to tell, but Diageo might also have a problem on the horizon with Lagavulin 16 which, as a more premium product, is even more serious. Asking more while delivering less is a risky business model, and when people really start trusting their own appraisals (or realize that it’s their appraisal that matters), promotion alone might not be enough to compensate.
On Ralfy’s vlog suggestion, I put together a couple of solera bottles, a Highland and an Island/Islay (and they were marvelous for killing bottles and creating space, so a success for that reason alone).
The Highland is made of:
Glenmorangie Original: 10 yrs.
The Spice Tree (Highland Vatted Malt)
Dalwhinnie: 15 yrs.
Dalmore: 12 yrs.
Clynish 11 yrs.
The Island/Islay is made of:
Scapa: 16 yrs.
Oban: 14 yrs.
Talisker: 10 yrs.
Arran (Isle of Arran): 10 yrs.
Dun Bheagan Islay Single Malt (2002)
Bowmore Laimrig: 15 yrs. (14949/15000)
I like the second one more than the first, maybe because the malts in the second go together better, but quite possibly because the first one was much more about cleaning up some disappointing bottles. I’m not sure that I have made most of the malts better together than they were alone, but I do believe that it’s possible as a theory (Compass Box does it with fair reliability), and it’s an interesting experiment. I found, for example, that a little Glenmorangie and a little Laimrig can have a big influence, while others (Dalmore, Dalwhinnie and Oban) “sit back” to a surprising degree, and that Scapa can remain distinctive in the mix.
It’s been 20 years since I bought a bottle of Talisker 10 and somehow kept an old tiny 50ml bottle of it up until a few months ago. From my memory and further tasting of the mini bottle I was completely blown away with how stiring, alive and “coastal” as you say it was. It really depicted that label. It’s been such a long time that I was due for another… and what a disappointment. Slightly interesting at best and all that life it had is now down to faint and ordinary. Little peat, little pepper but, at least, I am enjoying the nose. It was such a unique and distiguished whisky – what happened – gotta be more than lack of older whisky but what do I know.
Hate to admit it, but my last bottle of Talisker 10 was a disappointment too. Still a couple inches left in it. While I haven’t sat down to re-review it (and have no plans to right now), I would probably not score it much beyond lower-mid 80s. Shame.
It does seem a little less “round” and a little more raw than it once was, and it doesn’t have a big peating level to really cover up the trend.
A buddy at work had a bottle of T10 from 2 years ago and we traded ~50ml. My wife and I just finished the sample and followed with my recently purchased bottle. We both felt the big difference is the spice – it’s there but not as big as the sample from a couple years ago. My take is the current is also not as balanced which I have a hard time explaining any further. Coincidentally the sample is from around the time of your review.
Now on to a great current dram – Caol Ila 12.
I agree about the spice; I think that Talisker 10 was formerly much closer to a Glen Garioch profile than it is today.
Slightly updated verbiage and tweaked tasting notes.
Are these notes from the same bottle as the original review, coming back to it after a long time, or are they indicative of a much newer bottling?
Newer bottle, but from a couple years back.
Is island whisky like Pulteney? Too dry for me! Talisker taste notes say powerfull stormy smoke and volcanic. That part sounds exactly what I’d love! Many Talisker versions in store and very afforable now. Wonder if quality has dropped from demand too.Thinking Ardbeg 10 or Caol Ila 12 too as afforable malt but their everywhere now so I’m lost how quality can keep up.
I’ve liked Caol Ila cask strenght, braes of glenlivet 15 cask strenght (seem have mountain air storming through it),, Ardbeg 10 (but not last batch. just tcp chemical), Laddich Peat (but not 3d3. just tcp chemical and heavy oak).
The Talisker descriptors are pretty accurate, and it is worth trying – if only as a point of reference. I think the “bonus” years (anything over 10) are long gone from Talisker 10, but quality could still be on the decline due to competition (even internal Diageo competition) for quality casks, and current demand for casks isn’t necessarily the same thing as current demand for product, given soft scotch export numbers for the first half of the year. Although I may not be in the majority, I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I think that quality is in overall decline, accelerated by NAS products which don’t hold producers to any declared minimum age standard.
Your last sentence is pure poetry. Dead on accurate.
I love this release. Although I am glad I discovered it a bit later on my whisky journey. If I had to try it a couple of year ago, I would have hated it. But taste buds mature and now it is one of my favourites!