Talisker is an iconic Scottish whisky distillery on the isle of Skye. The island lies off the north west Highland coast and forms part of the Hebrides. The distillery is the only one on the island and is located close to the village of Carbost, in the shadow of the imposing Cuillin hills. Despite its remote location, the distillery is one of the most visited in Scotland. Talisker was founded in 1830 by two local brothers, Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill, and has a current annual production capacity of 1.9 million litres.
Talisker is currently owned by drinks giant Diageo and they have recently given the brand a lot of promotion, including a spate of Burns Night events such as the one that we have attended recently. The result is that worldwide sales have risen by 100% in the last five years and it is now Diageo's best selling single malt behind Cardhu. Talisker continues to win prizes around the world, culminating in their 18 years old winning 'Best Single Malt' at The World Whisky Awards in 2007.
The whisky produced at Talisker contributes towards Diageo's famous Johnnie Walker blended whisky range. The rest is released as single malts. The core range is small and contains a 10 years old, the 18 years old and this 'Distiller's Edition', which is finished in Amoroso sherry casks and released in regular batches. This batch was distilled in 1998 and bottled in 2009 with an alcoholic strength of 45.8% ABV. A 25 years old and a 30 years old are also released as limited editions.
The colour of this 'Distiller's Edition' is golden amber and the nose has a warm, welcoming feeling. There is a lovely mix of aromas - dark dried fruits (imagine raisins and sultanas), caramel, nuts (think of hazelnuts), malty cereals, Talisker's trademark peppery smoke, a hint of some cocoa powder - and they combine very well. On the palate, a spicy smokiness hits first (imagine cracked peppercorns and nutmeg) followed by rich, sweet dried fruits (the raisins and sultanas again, with some candied orange peel). The whisky feels velvety in the mouth and the initial characteristics are joined by sweet caramel, roasted nuts (think of almonds especially), something floral (reminiscent of heather), honey, just a hint of cocoa and a tang of saltiness. The complex mix of flavours carries through in to a spicy. It is malty (imagine cereal grains) and sweet before an earthy peatiness and spices (the peppercorns and nutmeg again) come through, making it feel drier at the end.
This version of 'Distiller's Edition' is lovely. The sherry cask influence has softened some of the more fiery characteristics associated with Talisker. We sampled it at a recent tasting (thanks to Colin Dunn from Diageo and Jo at TrimediaUK) where many of the other guests had not tasted much whisky and the general opinion was that 'Distiller's Edition' was easier to drink, richer and more palatable than the regular 10 years old. Having said that, while this 'Distiller's Edition' is very good, the Talisker 10 years old remains one of our favourite drams and is a classic whisky.