Let’s look at another sexy old Talisker. Right up front, this is a beautiful, beefy 30 year old dram from a great distillery, and is one of the best Talisker I’ve ever met. If you’d prefer not to read a paragraph or two of my felating this whisky, move along and wait for me to eviscerate a cheap blend in the near future. Otherwise…let’s talk Talisker.
All malts, as they mature, will carry on a bit of a dialogue with the cask in which they sleep. They’ll interact with the oak, mellowing and shedding their feistier notes, while inheriting a depth of complexity and definition. I’d argue it’s not so much what they lose, though, as what they gain from the process that is at the forefront. Let’s face it…much of the volatility of the spirit has already been stripped away by the interaction with the copper in the stills and the careful cut of the spirit run. After this, it should just be a mellowing process over the years.
But the maturation of peated spirits is a bit of a different story. It’s not just simply what is gained from the time in oak, but also what is lost. The distillate that hits the barrel, generally at about 63.5%, is already inbued with that smoky, earthy and sometimes medicinal (depending on locale) flavour we know and love. As you likely know, in order to be legally labelled as a Scotch whisky, the spirit must mature for a minimum of three years. With a peated whisky, that three year old would be fiery and smoky as hell. But leave that juice to percolate for a couple decades and that big smokiness begins to fade off, take a backseat, and let the estery side of the whisky come forward again. This loss of character, in a way, is paramount to the subtle beauty of mature peated whisky.
Think of it like a set of scales or a see-saw, where in the early days the peat far outweighs the sweet. Over time the peat loses some weight and the sweet gains a bit, resulting in a bit of a balancing act. Neat stuff.
All of this is simply a lead-in to what makes this 30 year old Talisker so special. Not only are we seeing a balancing off of peat against fruits, but also of peppery notes against fruits. Talisker is reknowned for both its peat and pepper. Both are bold influences that lose their pomp over time. And this, my friends…is a great thing. We love ’em young and full of attitude, but we love ’em even MORE as they gain some maturity.
This Talisker is an incredible old whisky. One at arguably the apex of its charm. Simply wonderful.
Nose: Soft white fruits. A heaping helping of peaches. Fruit cocktail. Just a hint of strawberry. Beyond the fruits there are notes of smoke, peat and pepper, of course. Latex and wax and old book aromas show the age of this one. More soft fruits. Clean white fluor-y notes. Beautiful light spices. Rather soft and friendly. Love it.
Palate: Wow…what a delivery. All the promises made by the nose are kept by the palate. Dark cacao and white chocolate bring an initial softness. Then we move into pepper, ginger and chili. Citrus and mild licorice notes. Salty toffee. Oak and fresh hay.
Thoughts: Incredible harmony. One of the top three Talisker I’ve ever met. It’s amazing that it maintained such a respectable abv after 30 long years.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt