This is the first of three straight NAS whisky reviews. I relented on Talisker’s Storm when the price came down, from over $55 locally (Oregon) to just under $50. The original price was not so obnoxious as some NAS whiskies — I tried a Dalmore King Alexander III recently, for example, which runs $305, and Ardbeg’s Corryveckan is about $90. But still, $55 is the range where you can get a nice 12-year-old.
The standard Talisker 10, one of my favorites, isn’t cheap of course, at about $65 locally, so the opportunity to fill the Talisker-sized hole in my liquor cabinet for fifty bucks was too good to pass up. So, how does the Storm compare? After all, it is a Talisker, and we have expectations: of light peat smoke, a unique medicinal nose, shades of wrack and seaweed, citrus and fruit. Those expectations are whetted by the marketing message prominent in this expression: it comes in a big bluish box with stormy clouds and splashing ocean waves, as you can see from the photo. The text reads that this whisky “takes the most intense experiences to a new level.” Well, that’s a marker thrown. We can expect this dram to be a bit combative, eh?
I’m relieved to see they bottle the Storm at the traditional (and offbeat) Talisker ABV percentage, 45.8. Must be an inside joke on Skye. Side-by-side with the 10-year-old (oh dear, sibling rivalry) I see right off the color is comparable, but the Storm is a shade more straw to the 10-year’s gold. That’s to be expected, in the absence of coloring (but Diageo isn’t telling one way or the other), if we assume younger malts in the Storm’s marry.* Less time in cask == less color.
The nose is more forward than the 10. The 10-year has a balance of light smoke, earthy peat, and malt sweetness with no alcohol sting. There are notes of crisp apple and orange peel as well, carried by that characteristic, almost Listerine®-like, medicinal note. The Storm is a bit harsher on the nose (a little sting), has more smoke, less earth, less of the sweetness of its big brother. There is also less of the medicinal characteristic that I like in Talisker 10, or it is overshadowed by the increased peat smoke. And while I still get a hint of red apple, the orange has not made its appearance.
By all means, the Storm is not a brawler, unless you think peated whisky is the work of the devil. But it is not a subtle dram, either. You really know you are drinking Island Whisky. It warms the throat unlike any laid-back Speysider. Compared to the 10, the Storm is less refined, the tannins more forward, less balanced by vanilla or other sweet tones. It does not have the subtlety of the older whisky. But then, it costs quite a bit less to acquire. This is, to me, a sensible approach to NAS — deliver a product which, by using younger whiskies, you can convey the essence of your expression, and charge less, not more, for it than the standard 10 or 12.
Talisker Storm, Skye single malt, 45.8% ABV
Nose: Essence of the ocean shore: seaweed, gentle peat smoke and that classic mouthwash with a hint of caramel sweetness.
Palate: Robust seaweed and phenols (tar) give way to a sweet malt mid-palate and pronounced woodiness. In fact, it is bitterly tannic on the sides of the tongue, while the center gets a blast of classic mouthwash. Less polish than the 10 all around but has similar complexity.
Finish: A long-lasting medicinal note lingers on the mid-tongue, with the woodiness riding on top. A nicely balanced mix of woodiness and sweetness at the back of the tongue.
Bottom Line: I give the Talisker Storm a thumb’s up. It isn’t the 10, but it doesn’t have to be. I can imagine this being a go-to dram for warming up after a cold winter’s day, whereas I save the 10 for more reflective occasions. Definitely worth a try at the new price.
*A note on marrying. I’ve found some single malt drinkers are not really clear on the concept of the marrying aspect of single malt. The ‘single malt’ designation means that the malt (not grain) whiskies from a single distillery are married together. Multiple casks are used, of course, to get the volume required for a commercial bottling. But the malt master has the freedom to mix barrels of different vintages, where the youngest barrel sets the number of years to be used on the age statement. Of course, in NAS whiskies, any vintage, from the legal minimum of three years on up, is allowed.