Whisky and Words Number 81: Talisker Distiller’s edition

Talisker Distiller’s Edition – the 10, sherried.

Here’s a whisky that’s been languishing in a box for months, what was I thinking? Talisker is an excellent warm-you-up whisky for winter and here we have sunshine, daffodils and buds in Portland. However, there is rain coming, so it’s a good time to taste a Talisker. This bottle is only $10 more ($80) than the standard 10-year Talisker, and thus gives the Talisker lover a new twist on their favorite without having to break the bank.

The Distiller’s Edition is a range from Diageo they do yearly. In each case, there’s a core whisky which is aged as per the brand’s standard then aged further in some other cask. The Talisker DE is aged for 10 years in ex-bourbon and then finished in Amoroso (medium-dry sherry) casks. I have the 2018 edition, as you can see from the photo above (click on the photo for a closer look; the date of distillation and bottling is in the lower label). However, they have followed the same pattern since the mid 2000’s and the 2020 release is of the same formula.

Most sherried whiskies are not peated (Talisker is moderately peated at about 20 ppm), with the notable exception of Lagavulin. Although I have some Lagavulin about the house, the Laga is a different animal, with more peat and some full-sherry casks in the marry versus a bourbon-age/sherry finish approach. I’ll contrast the Talisker DE to the regular Talisker 10-year as a benchmark.

The Distiller’s Edition (l) is a shade darker than the 10-year (r), perhaps thanks to the Amoroso casks. And no, my 104-year-old windowsill is not level.

The DE does not disappoint during the ‘how does it fill the room’ test, as its medicinal qualities are noticed immediately. The nose is richer and fruitier than the 10, but it definitely is the same dram underneath. The vanilla, light smoke, apples, and mineral notes are similar, though the bite of the apple cider in the 10 is carried along with a drier sherry fruitiness in the DE. The citrus is more orange peel than the subtle orange aroma in the 10. Overall, this edges toward Bunnahabhain territory rather than the ascetic leanness of the Talisker 10.

On the palate, smooth vanilla makes a brief appearance before sherry overtones waft in, while a smooth mouthfeel featuring light caramel and subtle Turkish delight is followed by a burst of smoke and medicinal pepperiness on the tongue. The palate is wonderfully balanced: the smoke, phenol and peppery aspects harmonize well, with gentle tannins balancing the sweetness. The dryness of the sherry is noticeable in this dram; it is not unctuous like the old Bunna was, it’s definitely smokey, medicinal and maritime in a very delightful way. I’m sad I waited so long to review it! The finish is long, as the smoke and phenols hang around with the tasty tannins, like a bonfire someone has tried to douse with Listerine (I mean that in a good way). In contrast, the 10’s tannins are more forward, as is the sweetness, with the two battling it out until the end. The peppermint perks up during the 10’s finish, which is somewhat more neutral than the DE; the Distiller’s Edition has less peppermint, but a more enduring and drier fruity finish. On the whole, I’d say the DE is a nice powerup on the 10, which is a very good whisky and not one you want to see them mess with.

Talisker Distiller’s Edition (aged 10 years), Skye single malt, 45.8% ABV

Nose: Vanilla, light smoke, apples, oranges, dry sherry, mineral peat.
Palate: Vanilla (briefly), subtle Turkish delight, smoke and characteristic Listerine pepperiness on the sides of the tongue while orange and apple mix it up with dry sherry in the center. Very well balanced tannins.
Finish: Long. Peppermint, tannins and vanilla balance well while the smoke and phenols remind you this is an Island whisky.

Bottom Line: They know how to choose, prepare and handle casks at Talisker. The amount of flavor they are getting from the oak, and the subtle balance of the tannins is surprisingly good and superior to whiskies with older age statements. Yes, I am a fan of Talisker but for a very good reason. Their products consistently impress. They took an already excellent 10-year and amped it up just so and succeeded in creating a spirit which retains the character of the original but provides additional notes to fill out, rather than overwhelm, the original’s flavor. This is a definite: worth the coin for anyone who appreciates an Island (peated) whisky that isn’t just trying to bomb you out with smoke and phenol.

The nautical embossing on the Talisker cap is apropros. The casks are aged on the edge of Loch Harport at just about sea level.

Author: H.W. MacNaughton

Technologist and communicator. Into technology, jazz, Formula One, sci-fi and any good writing about real stuff.

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