Category Archives: Talisker

Talisker 35 y.o. Review

Talisker 35 y.o.038

54.6% abv

Score:  94/100


Here it is.  The well-respected patriarch of the Talisker family.  You may have read others waxing poetically about this one elsewhere online, and they were absolutely justified in doing so.  There’s simply no two ways about it…this is utterly spectacular whisky.

Talisker, much like many of the Diageo brands, has maintained a rather limited range of  expressions for several years now, and even those select few variants that did hit the shelves were often not destined for all markets.  Here in Canada, for example, we’ve been privy only to the 10 y.o. and the Distiller’s Edition.  I’ve had to go south to the US for the 18 year, and the 57° North – up until about two months ago – forget it.  Fingers are still crossed for the Port Ruighe and Storm.

As you may have read here, an opportunity recently arose to taste a brilliant range of very special older Talisker expressions.  These bottles were sourced from far and wide, put aside over the years and uncorked only when the proper occasion arose.  Needless to say, a whisky such as this 35 year old is one that definitely deserves an occasion.  This is a very special dram.  And to the gent who poured it for me…thank you, sir.

Diageo managed only 3,090 bottles from this mix of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks.  The spirit was born in 1977, and bottled in 2012.  So…’70s distillate from a mix of casks…at great age and hefty strength.  What would that lead you to expect?  Personally, I was looking for a whisky with a touch of mellowed peat and smoke, emerging tropicals and a faded peppery note that more often than not defines Talisker.  Interestingly enough, what I got was exactly that.  But the stunning balance and clarity of delivery was the true surprise.  A once in a lifetime whisky.

(Tasting notes from a previous session, wherein this was one of 9 great Talisker releases)

Nose:  Absolutely redolent of fruit.  Like Five Alive fruit juice.  Citrus notes…almost tropical.  Pears in syrup.  A touch of pineapple.  Mild pepper (that Talisker fingerprint is well-faded by this age though).  The sexiest of restrained smoke.  White chocolate.  A beautiful ‘old whisky’ note that almost defies description.  Some mild farmy notes.  And yes…peat.

Palate:  A lot of fruit again.  Some melons this time as well.  Citrus.  The arrival is creamy, but vibrant and tangy with some orange and milk chocolate right up front.  Ginger and pepper prickle and lead into the peat and pepper we expect.  Smoother than silk though.  Absolutely beautiful.

Thoughts:  This is simply magic.  The nose is absolutely ‘to die for’ and the palate is austere, refined and sublime.  One of the all time great whiskies, not just from Talisker, but from any distillery.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Totally Talisker Tasting

Totally Talisker Tasting

On May 23rd of 1905 a young right fielder by the name of Archibald Wright “Moonlight” Graham was called up from the minors to report to the New York Giants.  He rode the bench watching the action until the 29th of June in the same year when, in the bottom of the 8th inning, he was sent out to play deep right, replacing outfielder George Browne.  He closed out the game without having touched the ball or swung a bat, and sadly…that 1 1/2 innings would be the entire extent of Graham’s baseball career.

If this story sounds suspiciously familiar, it’s because it is the very tale that W.P. Kinsella immortalized in his beautiful pastoral ‘Shoeless Joe’ and later became the basis for the blockbuster film ‘Field Of Dreams’.

As the story goes (and this is truth; a great tale of life being better than fiction), Graham went on to become a small town doctor in Chisholm, Minnesota, ultimately affecting the lives of countless people and in the process ultimately becoming a much beloved figure.

Graham never regretted his chosen path in life, but it’s important to note that before the fates stepped in and gently nudged him in this direction, he did step up to the plate when his chance came.  And he did make the most of what was offered.

On the 8th of March, 2014 the major league ‘Gang Of Four’ organized a home run tasting of rare and beautiful Talisker OBs.  Unfortunately the team were down one man, effectively making them a ‘Gang Of Three’.  With their own missing ‘George Browne’, if you will, they had to call up another ‘Moonlight Graham’ of sorts.  That ‘Moonlight Graham’ was yours truly.




My inning and a half in the majors was as memorable as you can imagine.  The company was great…the malts were unforgettable…and the laughs came easy.  All in all, a great event with the G4 (minus one, plus a half). 

The tasting notes below are primarily my own, but when you’re in a roomful of educated whisky enthusiasts nosing and tasting together, with everyone chipping in their notes and suggestions, you’re bound to be influenced.  Not only influenced, but helped along.  So let’s just say that these notes are very healthily propped up by the noses and palates of my three unnamed compadres.

For those interested in a little more detail, I’ll be posting proper individual reviews, with scores, of each of these whiskies in the coming days.  With no further ado…


Talisker 20 y.o. 2003

1982/2003     58.8% abv     12,000 bottles     Refill bourbon casks

Nose:  Whoa!  What have we here?  Brora?  Longrow?  Nope.  It is indeed Talisker, but wow, what a variant.  Peppery and farmy.  Some smoke and peat, to be sure.  Notes of eucalyptus and spruce.  Damp hay.  Crabapple tartness.  Salt black licorice.  Lots of spice.  Salted caramel.

Palate:  Earthy and peaty.  Pepper and licorice.  Very salty.  Notes of damp hay and sour apple.  Almost a wine-like note towards the back end as well.  Finishes with long and pleasant oak overtones.

Thoughts:  Very Brora-like.  Surprising as hell.  There was some concern about the quality of cork that came out of this one, but if this is a flawed bottle (and I’m not sayin’ it is), I’m ok with this kind of blemish.  Way better nose than palate, I should add.


Talisker 25 y.o. 2005

57.2% abv     15,600 bottles     Refill American and European oak

Nose:  Very creamy.  Whiffs of smoke and subdued peat.  Some neat ‘toasted’ notes as well.  Maybe peach.  Soft cream pie.  Pear and pepper.  Lemon and salt.  Mature notes of old books and such.

Palate:  The arrival and early delivery are creamy as hell.  Crème brûlée-ish almost.  Pepper and peat.  Fruit syrup.  Salt and licorice.  Some seriously amped peppered pear and apple notes.  Very big and alive.

Thoughts:  Great dialogue between the nose and palate.  Exceptional ‘young’ old Talisker.



Talisker 25 y.o. 2008

54.2% abv     6,708 bottles     Refill American and European oak

Nose:  Pepper.  Briny seaside notes.  Smoked oysters in oil.  And a touch of smoke, in general.  Grassy and herbal.  Chocolate and honey…kinda like a Toblerone, I guess.  Honeydew melon and cantaloupe.  Citrus.  Graham cracker crust.  Paint/latex.

Palate:  Great arrival.  Peaty, peppery and perfectly Talisker.  Granny smith apple and lemon juice.  Some licorice.  Nice firm oak notes.  This one is a stayer.  Hangs around for eons.

Thoughts:  Another absolutely great Talisker, but I prefer the ’05 edition to this ’08.  Now just need to try any in between…


Talisker 27 y.o. 1985

1985/2013     56.1% abv     3,000 bottles     Refill American oak

Nose:  Creamy caramel, with some beautiful fruits.  Primarily of the orange-ish tropical variety.  Roman Nougat candy.  Pepper.  Brine and shellfish.  Those beautiful old wax/paint/latex notes that define great old whiskies.  Orange and other citrus notes.  Wood smoke.  Mild peat.  A faint touch of rubber at the back end as it develops.

Palate:  Some rather farmy notes.  Coffee with dark chocolate.  Orange and lemon.  Salt and pepper, as we’d expect.  Not just pepper though, but some chili as well.  Peat.  Not quite as fruity as the nose promises, but

Thoughts:  A beautiful old gem.  A mate couldn’t get over how ‘Maritime’ this was, and indeed it says so right on the bottle.  I can’t help but agree.  This is a great age for Talisker.



Talisker 30 y.o. 2009

53.1% abv     3,000 bottles     Refill American and European oak

Nose:  Peaches.  Buckets of peaches.  Smoke, but very soft.  Chocolate of three kinds: white, dark and milk.  Pepper, of course…this is Talisker, after all.  Salt.  This is very soft and restrained on the peat notes.  Great fruits here.  Kinda like canned fruit cocktail, cherries n’ all.

Palate:  Starts off creamy, but dries out fairly quickly.  Never hits the depths of tannic dry-mouth, but definitely leaves the sides of the mouth a little puckered.  Much salt and pepper.  The fruits are still here.  Melon and some borderline tropical notes.  The peach is less prevalent, but still there and very pleasant.

Thoughts:  A beautiful old salty dog of a Talisker.  Not quite as great as the 2010 edition, but hey…we’re talking single point differences.  In short…exceptional.


Talisker 30 y.o. 2010

57.3% abv     2,958 bottles     Ex-bourbon and ex-sherry refill casks

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.


Talisker 35 y.o. 2012

1977/2012     54.6% abv     3,090 bottles     Refill ex-bourbon American oak and ex-sherry European oak casks

Nose:  Absolutely redolent of fruit.  Like Five Alive fruit juice.  Citrus notes…almost tropical.  Pears in syrup.  A touch of pineapple.  Mild pepper (that Talisker fingerprint is well-faded by this age though).  The sexiest of restrained smoke.  White chocolate.  A beautiful ‘old whisky’ note that almost defies description.  Some mild farmy notes.  And yes…peat.

Palate:  A lot of fruit again.  Some melons this time as well.  Citrus.  The arrival is creamy, but vibrant and tangy with some orange and milk chocolate right up front.  Ginger and pepper prickle and lead into the peat and pepper we expect.  Smoother than silk though.  Absolutely beautiful.

Thoughts:  This is simply magic.  The nose is absolutely ‘to die for’ and the palate is austere, refined and sublime.  One of the all time great whiskies, not just from Talisker, but from any distillery.


Talisker 20 y.o. 2002

1981/2002     62% abv     9,000 bottles     Sherry casks

Nose:  Crème caramel.  Pepper and mocha.  Smoke.  Sweet and syrupy.  Salted caramel.  A neat barbecue note, from the sweetness of the sherry mingling with the peppery peat.  Touch of rubber.  Dark rich fruits (cherry, blackberry, etc) in dark chocolate.  Peaty and smoky.  Some lemon and salt too.

Palate:  Oily and viscous.  Barbecue notes again.  Red ju-jubes.  Charred honey ham skin.  Peat, pepper, smoke and salt.  A lot of vibrant red fruits.  The delivery is like velvet.  There is no way I’d ever peg this as boasting an abv of 62%.  Gorgeous drink with a looooooooong finish.

Thoughts:  Amazing.  Stunning really.  Right in my wheelhouse.  If only this were still readily available.  I’d be doing my utmost to stock up.  This is a ‘wow’ whisky.


Talisker 57° North 2013

57% abv     Refill American oak

Thoughts:  This was thrown in at the end, simply because someone wanted to try it.  Sadly, I can’t put scores or tasting notes here on this last one.  We realized too late that it was grossly out of its league in this hall of fame company.  I’m sure it was likely a good drink, but…until I taste it in relative stead, I simply can’t speak to it.  I’ll come back to this one at some point in the future.


Sincere thanks to the G4 for the invite to this one.  I know they prefer to maintain their anonymity, and I will repect that, but suffice it to say they are all true gentlemen.  Cheers for a memorable occasion, gents! 


– Words:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

Talisker 18 Review

Talisker 18

45.8% abv

Score:  93/100


Oh boy.  This is it.  This is what Talisker is meant to be.  The 10 y.o is good.  The Distiller’s Edition, not bad.  The 30 y.o., brilliant, but out of most of our ranges.  But here, at 18 years, we have Talisker in its prime.  This is not just a great example of what Talisker can be, but a great example of what whisky can be.

I recently nabbed a couple bottles of this in San Francisco for a steal of a deal, but I think this bottle I’m reviewing now may be from an older batch.  I am desperately hoping there is not much batch variation, because this is a stunner.  If it just so happens to turn out that there are two bottles of this exact batch on my shelves downstairs…my mates and I are gonna be very happy lads in coming days.

Phenomenal complexity and composition here.  Beautiful mature peat runs headlong into an array of fruits already growing and coming forward as they tend to do with age.  Smoke and pepper, as you’d expect with Talisker, but with far less bite than the 10 y.o. most are familiar with.  There is a knowing waxy and latex maturity here, and a tightrope balance that would almost have me guessing this was a Port Ellen if I didn’t know better.  Mature beyond its years.  In a good way

The palate?  Again…Port Ellen-ish.  Waxy fruits, a bit of smoke and a quick twist of pepper.  45.8% abv is a perfect bottling strength for this one.  Flavors are rich and finish is long.

Outstanding.  I adore this whisky.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Would You Rather Spend The Night With A Bunch Of 18 Year Olds Or One 32 Year old?

Awkward is having your wife catch you with a sassy 18 year old.  Domestic nuclear winter is having her come home and find you messing around with nine 18 year olds at the same time.  Not that anyone would want to be in that situation.  Errr…ummm…

Ok, ok…listen up, boys.  They may be pretty…they may smell good…they may taste good…and they may not even be ‘out of your league’…but no 18 year old will ever give you what a stunning 32 year old can.  I promise.

Though usually I’d give you a few paragraphs of preamble before jumping in to the nitty gritty, this time let’s leave it up to the imagination…

Let me tell you a little about how this one goes.  First there was a fair-haired lass from Speyside…


Glenfiddich 18

43% abv

Nose:  Heather and gooey honey.  Big ol’ baskets of fruit and armfuls of flowers.  Creamy vanilla ice cream, drizzled in creme caramel.  Red apple.  Berries in cream.  Pancakes and syrup.  Oaky, but young and vibrant for 18 years.

Palate:  Smooth and unchallengingly sweet.  Creamy vanillins dance with dried fruit and crunchy apple.  Lovely really.  Almost refreshing.

Thoughts & Impressions:  She’s familiar and you can’t help but sneak a second peek.  Cute and red-apple-rosy-cheeked.  Probably dated the quarterback.  Do you have a chance?  Maybe.  Is she worth it?  Hmmmm…time will tell.


GlenDronach 18

46% abv 

Nose:  Heavy sherry, rich and sweet…could only be Oloroso.  Cherry and cocoa.  Cinnamon and gingerbread.  Vanilla.  Slight yeastiness.  Fruitcake, mild cigar leaf and deep plumminess.

Palate:  Slight bitterness, almost tannic.  Heavy raisin bread and rummy fruitcake.  Drying.

Thoughts & Impressions:  Bubbly and fresh, but…there’s a little more of a dark side here.  This is not vanilla sex.  This is jeans and cardigans by day…handcuffs by night.  There’s a sensibility and maturity here that tells you no one will ever know about this dark side but you.



Macallan 18

43% abv

Nose:  Rich and chewy sherry…but very soft.  Nutmeg and cream.  Muted cherry.  Toffee.  Heather.  Nearly faultless nose.

Palate:  Mildest of dried fruit.  Caramel.  Warm melted chocolate.  Oak.  Lasts none too long, but a beautiful top note and denouement.  Man…what exceptional balance.

Thoughts & Impressions:  This one is a princess.  She’s not in your bed ‘cause she wants to be.  She’s there ‘cause she’s slumming and looking for an experience.  Don’t get too settled…don’t fall in love.  You can’t afford the upkeep on this one.


Highland Park 18

43% abv

Nose:  Creamy honey and rich peat smoke.  Dusty, spicy vanilla.  Mild cigar.  Rich sweet butter.  A bouquet of soft fruit and barely seen floral notes.  Hint of dill.

Palate:  The delivery is unbelievably smooth and calculated. Rich wood smoke teases, then mellows out with sweet caramel notes

Thoughts & Impressions:  Messy-haired and ready for a pillow fight.  She’s not leaving till sun-up.  And that’s not ‘cause she wants to sleep.



Bunnahabhain 18

46.3% abv 

Nose:  Smoke and sherry.  Ashy peat.  Pear and sweet banana cream.  Some sort of orchard fruit.  Honey and vanilla.  Stunning interplay at work here.

Palate:  Gooey, chewy malt full of smoke.  Sherried honey oak and a complex tapestry of spritely fruits.   This is maturity and youthful zest in perfect harmony.

Thoughts & Impressions:  Just a down-home small town girl that everyone underestimates.  The thing is…she’s bloody brilliant at everything she does and no one who meets her can resist her.  This is a keeper, if only you were looking to settle down.


Talisker 18

45.8% abv 

Nose:  Yeah, baby…there’s the Talisker pepper!  Salt.  A peaty backbone.  Cinnamon and ginger.  Some kinda soft orange fruit.  Toblerone.  Warm leather.  An absolute classic on the nose alone.

Palate:  Pepper.  Surprisingly sweet and fruity.  Swirling ribbons of smoke.  Peat.  Faint notes of old sherry.  Such a phenomenal linger smoked green apple.

Thoughts & Impressions:  Yow!  She’s a spicy one.  Blonde and bold.  Fiery-tempered.  Full of personality.  Highly possible she’s also the love of your life.



Longrow 18

46% abv

Nose:  Prickly and peppery.  Hint o’ mint maybe.  Smoke and caramel.  Licorice.  Some salt and thick cream over blueberries.  Wee bit o’ peat, but not near what I’d generally expect from a Longrow.

Palate:  There’s the peat I expected on the nose.  Comes through with some spiced apples and smoke.  Lindt chocolate with chili.  Long, long finish.

Thoughts & Impressions:  The dark-haired younger sister of your girlfriend.  Sassier and miles more charming.  No, you’re not wrong…she is trying to seduce you.


Caol Ila 18

43% abv 

Nose:  Slightly ‘green’.  Honeydew melon.  Aloe.  Mild citrus.  Fruits are starting to come forward.  Salt.  Very light smoke.

Palate:  A little more smoke than on the nose.  Great green fruit delivery.  Lovely and uplifting.

Thoughts & Impressions:  She comes from the biggest house on the street.  Her parents have lots of money and drive brilliant cars. She’s the one everyone wants but are afraid to approach.  Shame, really.  She’s also a sweetheart, and easy to love.



Laphroaig 18

48% abv 

Nose:  Orange and chocolate.  Cedar.  Fruity.  Heavy vanilla and black licorice flavored jujubes.  Pear drops.  Sambuca and fruit bowl with dominant bananas.

Palate:  Poached and caramelized white fruits.  Floral smoke.  Some dark chocolate and Werther’s Originals.  Drying with tobacco and clean smoke.

Thoughts & Impressions:  This is a mysterious one.  Redolent of exotic and foreign perfumes.  Dark and alluring.  This is the Dashiel Hammett heroine seen through a haze in a dark and smoky bar.  You love her.  But can you handle her?




After a romp like that I promise you you’ll still be left wondering ‘what if?’  And further, that empty feeling won’t be sated until you finally spend a little time with the one that should have had your attention all along…


Springbank 32

46% abv

Nose:  Smoke and wax.  Coconut milk and soft pineapple juice.  Marmalade.  Vanilla and oak.  Some tame spices.  Becomes fruitier and fruitier over time.

Palate:  There’s the maturity.  Waxy…smoky and oaky.  Dried fruit…apricot maybe.  Creosote.  Gorgeous, gorgeous oak.

Thoughts & Impressions:  She’s what you’ve waited for.  Vibrant and sweet.  The older she gets, the more you love her.  Age has taken all of her best and given it just a little more brilliance by imparting a mature knowing.


barry's place pics 014

How can you possibly top her?  Simple…you can’t.  I’ll take my beautiful 32 year old over any 18 year old…any day.

Happy birthday, babe.  Love you.  Always have.


– Tasting notes and write-up:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt (except Caol Ila, courtesy of Pat)

Talisker 10 y.o. Review

Talisker 10 y.o.

45.8% abv

Score:  88.5/100


“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