Talisker (Pronounced: just as you write it...)
Highlands - Islands - Skye
Tobermory, Ben Nevis, Glenlochy, Oban
2 Wash stills, 3 Spirit stills
2,600,000 litres of pure alcohol per year
Diageo > UDV (since 1989)
Carbost, Skye IV47 8SR
Yes, opened in 1988
Below, on WhiskyFun and on the Malt Maniacs Monitor
Scores & tasting notes:
2004 - The range of official bottlings of Talisker is expanded with 18yo and 25yo expressions.
2005 - a '175th Anniversary' version without an age statement is released.
2006 - The official Talisker range is expanded further with a 30yo OB - the oldest official bottling so far,
2008 - Yet another new bottling is added to the range; the Talisker NAS '57░ North' (57%, OB, Bottled 2008).
During the 1990's Talisker was usually one of the first single malts that
a relative malt whisky novice would get to try. As part of Diageo's series of
six 'Classic Malts' (along with Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie, Glenkinchie, Oban
and Lagavulin on Islay) it was one of the few Scotch single malts that could
be found on the shelves of almost every reasonably stocked liquorist.
Together with Lagavulin, Talisker represented a heavier side
of the single
malt spectrum. Their barley (which is malted at Glen Ord) isn't as peaty as
Lagavulin's (the Talisker 'recipe' requires a peating level of +/- 22 PPM) but
the whisky still makes a strong impression on most novices in the world of
single malt Scotch. This was especially true in the 1990's when Islay malts
like Ardbeg and Caol Ila were not available as proper single malt 'brands'.
The remote island of Skye has many similarities with Islay - for one thing its Hebridean climate.
Nevertheless, it's usually classified as an 'Island' whisky, considered by most experts to be part of the
'Highlands' region. This means that Talisker is grouped together with a mish-mash of other malt whisky
distilleries which have very different profiles, including Arran, Highland Park, Jura, Scapa & Tobermory.
The distant location of Talisker was not chosen because that made the distillery hard to find for excise
men that roamed the land in the illustrious illegal days of Scotch whisky. When the distillery was built
in 1831 the whisky business had just turned legitimate - less than a decade earlier George Smith had
just obtained the first proper license to distill whisky at Glenlivet distillery.
Talisker was built in 1830 by brothers Kenneth and Hugh MacAskill.
As sons of the local doctor they were part of the establishment, so it's
unlikely they would have embraced the fine art of distillation so bravely
if it had still been an illegal practice. But for those that took the trouble
of obrtaining a license it wasn't anymore, so distillation at Talikser was
started in 1831. Everything proceeded smoothly for two decades, but
in 1848 they passed the lease of Talisker on to North of Scotland Bank.
The bank didn't hold on to the distillery for more than a decade; they
sold it on to Donald McLellan in 1857 for a mere 500 GBP. Despite the
relatively modest investment Donald had problems making Talisker turn
a profit, so in the 1860's John Anderson became involved. After he was
imprisoned for selling casks of whisky that never really existed (fraud
apparently wasn't invented in the 1900's) it was time for new owners
for the Talisker distillery; Roderick Kemp and Alexander Grigor Allen.
Roderick Kemp sold his share of Talisker in 1892 and used the proceeds to buy Macallan.
Ownership of Talisker kept changing in the decades after that, until DCL took control in 1916.
The method of triple distillation that was traditionally employed at Talisker was abandoned in 1928.
After administration of the distillery was transferred to Scottish Malt Distillers (SMD, predecessors of Diageo) in 1930,
things quieted down for a while at Talisker for a few decades. However, in 1960 there was a large fire at the distillery.
Talisker was closed for two years, during which time they commissioned the construction of identical copies of the five
stills that were damaged or destroyed in the fire.
Talisker re-opened its doors in 1962 and proceeded
as before until 1972. At that point the malting at the
distillery stopped. From then on the barley was malted
at the Glen Ord Central Maltings in the Highlands.
In 1988 Diageo launched the aforementioned 'Classic Malts Selection'
and a decade later
they joined the finishing bandwagon with 'double matured' expressions of their six classic
malts. The 'Distillers Edition' of Talisker was enhanced with a amoroso sherry finish. Over
the years a number of limited editions was released and in 2004 Talisker expands the range
with an 18yo expression (shown at the left) as well as a 25yo bottling.
In 2005 Talisker distillery celebrated its a birthday and released the '175th Anniversary'
without an age statement. This was hardly a 'limited edition'; some 60,000 bottles were produced. At the same time they launched another 25yo expression (the third edition).
A 30 years old bottling was first released in 2006, as well as another edition of its 25yo expression. These bottlings may not seem that old compared to releases in the ranges of Macallan or Dalmore, but for Talisker it was a significant departure. For the first ten years of the 'Classic Malts Selection' only the 10yo standard bottling was available and after the 'Distillers Edition' became available in 1998 they didn't release any older expressions for a few years. So, older OB's of Talisker are a fairly new phenomenon.
1) There are approximately 800 islands surrounding the mainland of Scotland, only 130 of which are inhabited.
Skye is one of the largest of those islands - and of course it is inhabited.
2) Until 1928 triple distillation was used at the Talisker distillery.
3) Despite the relatively isolated location on a Northern island, Talisker is Diageo's most visited distillery.
4) Talisker distillery doesn't have its own maltings facility, so all the malted barley needs to be shipped in from the mainland. It is produced at Diageo's Glen Ord maltings with a relatively light phenol level around 20 PPM.
5) Talisker was part of Diageo's original series of six 'Classic Malts', together with Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie,
Glenkinchie, Lagavulin and Oban. This series was first released in 1988. Around 2005 a bunch of other distilleries
were added to the range; Caol Ila, Cardhu, Clynelish, Glen Elgin, Glen Ord, Knockando and Royal Lochnagar.
Talisker 30yo Limited Edition (57.3%, OB, Bottle #0426 of 2958, Bottled 2010)
Nose: Rich and quite sweet at cask strength with lots of subtleties. More spicy than peaty. Leather.
A little meaty at C/S (carpaccio and lemon), with more 'bakery' aromas after dilution to about 50% ABV.
Then some speculaas. A fantastic whisky with lots of variation over time within a fairly narrow spectrum.
Taste: Just a little too sharp for me at cask strength. Easier on the tongue when diluted, but a little 'simple'.
The palate certainly doesn't match the complexity of the nose, so it loses a few points here.
Score: 87 points - a very decent score by itself, but not so great if you consider the hefty price tag.
Talisker NAS '57░ North' (57%, OB, 2010)
Nose: Lightly peaty with some citrus in the background. A whiff of coffee. After two minutes more organics.
Like the 'cow stable' part of my grandfather's old Saxon farm - wheat, dry beans, animal sweat and manure.
Taste: Smooth start followed by some faint peat - quickly growing stronger and smokier in the centre.
Score: 86 points - it seems perhaps a tad less complex than the first few batches, but it's still a great whisky.
Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB, Bottled +/- 2009)
Nose: Fruity and sweaty. Some organics. A malty component as well. Opens up after some breathing.
A hint of rotting milk powder - and yes, I realise that this is a fragrance outside most people's experience ;-)
Oddly oily for a Talisker 10yo; I never found any oil in Talisker before as far as I know. Some cardboard.
Taste: Sweet. Some fairly faint smoke and organics, evolving into peat. Very subtle fruits in the finish.
Score: 83 points - which is a little below earlier batches, but still very respectable for a 10yo whisky.
Talisker 1994/2009 (58.6%, OB, Manager's Choice, Sherry C#7147, 582 Bts.)
Nose: Oh, WOW! Incredibly complex start with lots of organics. Some delicate sweetness as well.
Another explosion of complexity right after I added water. More "industrial" aroma's appear over time.
Taste: Quite a big peaty punch. Much smoother and sweeter around the centre. Rougher again in the finish.
Score: 88 points - it almost seemed like a candidate for the 90's, but it drops off a bit over time.
Talisker 15yo 1993/2009 (51.7%, Hart Brothers Finest Collection)
Nose: Very expressive. Polished fruits. Nice balance between sweetness and peat. Horse stable. Ammoniac.
Taste: Sweet on the surface, peatier in the foundation. A nice combination of elements; pretty well balanced.
I also found a touch of bitterness in the dry finish. A little bit of liquorice as well. Feels stronger than its ABV.
Score: 85 points - but I won't deny that I found it fairly difficult to pin this one down.
Talisker NAS '57░ North' (57%, OB, Bottled 2008)
Nose: Fairly fruity. Loads of spices; like being served a fresh dish in an Indonesian restaurant.
Taste: Hot, sweet and peaty. A fairly rough centre. Hint of menthol? Hot finish. Mellows out a little with air.
I was watching a TV programme while tasting this one, so I'm afraid I forgot to make many notes.
Score: 87 points - I like it quite a bit, but I feel the high proof masks the youth of the whisky a bit.
Talisker 25yo (54.2%, OB, Bottled 2008, 9708 Bts.)
Nose: Passion fruit, bordering on perfumy. Maybe a hint of chloride? Coffee. Cassis?
Evolves quickly; more medicinal after a minute before it gradually sweetens out. Grows a little dustier.
Taste: Smooth, sweet and fruity in the beginning. Tannins already emerge in the centre. Raisins too.
Touches of smoke. Maybe a hint of coconut? The mouth feel is big, full and round. Yes, I like this one...
Score: 88 points - which means that I like this batch exactly as much as the previous one from 2007.
Talisker 30yo (49.5%, OB, Bottled 2008, 2970 Bts.)
Nose: Slightly uneven start; veggy and a little oily. The bouquet opens up after a minute.
Fairly simple compared to the palate at first. During a second try the nose appeared light and a tad watery.
Light citrus? Speculaas? The bouquet is fairly subtle, but it shows quite some development over time.
Taste: Fruity start, teetering on the brink of perfumy. Passion fruits? Fairly hot and harsh in the dry finish.
The finish also shows some 'aspirin' bitterness after a few minutes. A (relatively) crappy cask?
Score: 82 points - recommendable, but perhaps the bouquet is just a tad too 'bourbony' for my tastes.
Talisker 25yo (58.1%, OB, Bottled 2007, 6894 Bts.)
Nose: Polished but not very expressive at first. Chloride? Slowly some organics emerge, but it remains subdued.
After a few minutes some gentle fruits pop up. It exploded with fruits after I added a few drops of water.
Taste: Feels more solid than I had expected - and again the peat came as a surprise. Liquorice.
Great wood in the finish - and a good dose of sweetness too until it grows very dry in the end.
Water doesn't hurt the mouth feel one bit. Tannis remain strong in the finish.
Score: 88 points - good whisky, but not the best value in the range.
Talisker 18yo (45,8%, OB, Bottled +/- 2006)
Nose: Woody, Polished. Faintest hint of peat? Heavy and quite peaty on the palate. Sweet smoke too.
During round 2 the nose seemed sweeter. It has power, but's it's not clearly peaty.
Here's another one that needs quite some time to fully open up in the nose - and expose the peat on the palate.
Taste: Tannins in the finish - which seems just a tad thin. I love the profile, but it seems just a tad watery.
Touch of liquorice. This one desperately need time to open up.
Score: 88 points - if it had been as complex from the start it might have been 89 or even 90.
Talisker 30yo (51,9%, OB, Limited Edition, Bottled 2006)
Nose: Turkish delight. Expressive start, settling down quickly. A little oily? Some diesel after a few minutes?
Taste: Hey, there's peat - I didn't find that in the nose initially. Solid centre, great mouth feel. Salty tannins.
Score: 80 points - I found this one a tad brief in the finish, but most other malt maniacs liked it a lot better.
Talimburg 20yo 1986/2006 (43.8%, The Whisky Fair, Artist Edition)
Nose: Sweetish and a little sweaty. Anthracite and some subtle organics. Perhaps a tad rubbery?
Taste: Smooth and soft start, before liquorice and some smoke emerge. Sweeter towards the finish.
Score: 86 points - I had it at 87 points for a long time, but the finish grew a little too dry for me.
Talisker NAS '175th Anniversary' (45,8%, OB, Bottled 2005)
Nose: Mellow and sweetish. Faint hint of rubber? A nice and slightly 'coastal' nose. faint organics.
Aaah... Dust and sherry. Quite peculiar. Cleaning vinegar. I like the individuality here. This is different.
Taste: Solid, sweet and fruity. Hint of smoke? A fairly classic profile, but some of the details seem slightly off.
A trace of peat on the palate after a while? Yep. Some nice tannins too. Just a tad watery and deconstructed.
It doesn't seem to go in any particular 'direction', (usually necessary for me to go for a score in the 80's.
Score: 83 points - it's a very nice drinking whisky. Not special enough for the upper 80's, though...
Talimbourg 19yo 1986/2005 (45.9%, The Whisky Fair, Bourbon hogshead #1485, 252 Bottles)
Nose: Sweet start. It almost threathens to go in an oily direction, but never really does. A clean malt.
Taste: Faintest hint of peat? Yes, sweet as well. reminds me a bit of #50. Chewy, feels quite gritty in the finish.
Something that reminds me of oriental cooking, but I don't know what. Nice chewy mouth feel in the centre.
Score: 82 points - I'd put this in the 'recommendable' category, even though it's not really my style of malt.
Talisker 50yo 1955/2005 'Secret Stills' (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, Dist. #01, Release #01, C#1312, 564 Btl.)
Nose: Wow! Big, polished wood with fruits and pipe tobacco. Just the sort of profile I adore.
Taste: Excellent! Austere, but not too much. Hint of old peat, balanced by faint fruits. Liquorice?
Score: 92 points - What a beauty! This one goes to the top of my Hit List straight away.
Talisker 25yo 'Bottled in 2004' (57.8%, OB, Refill casks, 21000 bottles)
Nose: Fruity start, quickly growing mustier, then sweeter. Lovely. Not much development with time, though.
Taste: Hmmm... An odd, almost perfumy episode before a short flash of peat. Wood. Aspirin. Harsh. Bitter finish.
Not a lot of changes in the nose after adding water, but the palate blossoms. Sweet and peaty. Fruits too.
Score: 83 points - The nose starts off lovely, but it's let down by the harsh, fiery palate. Hot, hot, hot...
Talisker 15yo 1989/2004 (59.9%, SMWS 14.14)
Nose: Raw rhubarb. Very restrained. Something faintly grassy or herbal. Nothing too remarkable at first.
Seems fruitier and spicier in the nose during round II. Peppery, hot & dry on the palate again.
Taste: Sweet start, growing bigger and a little peppery in the centre. Hot and dry; slightly woody finish.
It becomes extremely 'chewy' at the end of the loooong finish. I was litterally chewing my gums here.
Score: 87 points - by no means '100% perfect' (especially in the nose), but I love the overall package...
Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB, Batch number L15T01047290, Bottled +/- 2003)
Nose: Peaty with a hint of citrus. Pepper? Liquorice? Clay? Aaaah... I've struck gold here.
Something dry and medicinal - more like Laphroaig? Oh boy, this is just great!!!
Taste: Hot, peppery start. Develops into a full, sweet centre before growing very dry.
Not nearly as overwhelming as the nose, though - it loses some serious points here.
Score: 88 points - at first I thought this could be a 90's malt as well, but the palate convinced me otherwise.
That being said, it does improve considerably after a few months of breathing in the bottle.
Talisker 20yo 1982/2003 (58.8%, OB, Bourbon, 12000 Bottles)
Nose: Sweet and smooth. Very faint organics in the background, slowly moving to the front.
A little metallic. Peat? Quite pleasant, but not nearly as complex or expressive as the 81/02.
Palate: Sweet and smooth with a peppery prickle in the dry centre. Malty. Grows hotter.
Chewy. Something fruity - water melon? Dry, peaty and very salty after five minutes.
Score: 80 points - I'm glad I didn't waste more than 100 Euro's on this one.
Talisker 1989/2002 Distillers Edition (45.8%, OB, TD-S: 5DP)
Nose: Complex. Wood, sherry and coffee. Lighter and spicier than the 1986.
Some peat in the background. Very entertaining and surprisingly accessible.
Subtle fruits on the surface but something evil lurks at the bottom of the pond.
Palate: Ouch - this is a tad disappointing. Very dry. Minty fresh. Peppery prickle.
Woody finish. The nose can compete with the 1986 DE, but the palate surely can't.
Score: 85 points - I had it in the upper 80's before I tasted it. Not really my style on the palate.
Talisker 20yo 1981/2002 (62%, OB, Sherry, 9000 Bottles)
Nose: Coffee. Tia Maria? Ah, now it opens up into rich sherry and fruits. Fabulous!
Very complex organics. Hint of peat in the background. Good wood - like an old Macallan.
Palate: Sweet and smoky. Great wood. Long finish. An overproof malt, but I hardly noticed it.
Score: 93 points - interestingly enough, it almost smells like an old Macallan to me.
The very best Talisker I've had so far; this really is a work of art.
Talisker 26yo 1975/2002 (44.7%, Douglas Laing for C÷penicker WH, 'Tactical', 294 Bts.)
Nose: Cassis. It's fruity for a minute before it grows oilier. Powerful start, but it loses some steam quickly.
Taste: Sweet pastry. More phenols in the centre. Wonderful mouth feel. Feels stronger than its actual ABV.
In fact, the longer you keep this whisky in your mouth, the more powerful it becomes. Light tannins.
Score: 85 points - perhaps not terribly impressive given its ripe old age, but still highly recommendable.
Talisker 19yo 1980/2000 'Tactical' (50%, Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask, 348 Bottles)
Nose: Clean, complex and grainy - which doesn't really describe how wonderful this is.
Subtle fruits and marzipan. At first it reminds me of the Saint Magdalene 19yo 1979 UDRM.
Then a barrage of salt, smoke and organics emerges. Peat. Pink bubblegum. Amazing.
Taste: Hot with an herbal twang at first. Dry and salty. Liquorice. Not a lot of depth.
Score: 90 points and nothing less. Different from the 'house style' but fabulous.
Especially the nose - if you finish this within fifteen minutes you'll miss a lot of fun.
Talisker 10yo (45.8%, OB, Batch number L15N01183495, Bottled +/- 1999, Skye map label)
Nose: Wow! Smoke and organics, lifted by a subtle sherry influence in the background.
Brooding and sinister. Swampy. Some subtle spices below the surface. Hint of mint?
Amazing complexity - I think this batch of the 10yo has the best nose of any batch.
Taste: Surprisingly fruity start, growing hot, peppery and smoky towards the centre.
Drier and more 'winey' towards the finish. Interesting development, but it lacks body.
Score: 90 points - the nose is just as good as that of earlier batches, if not better. Unfortunately, the palate isn't quite as stellar. I had the score at 89 points for a long time, but the final sniffs from the glass before I had my last sip convinced met that this one deserves a score in the 90's, despite the weaker body. Give it time!
Talisker 1986 Distillers Edition (45.8%, OB, TD-S: 5AM, Bottled +/- 1998)
Nose: Sherried start, deeper and fruitier than the 1989 DE. Powerful and complex. Hint of antiquity?
Complex woody tones. Hint of smoke. Then organics emerge - stock cubes? Great.
Taste: Subtle smoke at first, growing sweeter and fruitier, then hotter. Likeable.
Yeah, there's the pepper - and lots of it. Long, satisfying finish, slightly winey.
Score: 89 points - three points up from my initial score of 86 points for my first dram.
When you give it time this is a fabulous malt - just don't expect the character of a 'normal' 10yo.
Talisker 14yo 1979/1993 (64.3%, Cadenhead's, D07/79, B10/93, 5cl)
Nose: Oh, boy - this is another beauty. Smoke and organics. Turkish peppers and fruits.
Then it picks up some distinct medicinal elements. Serrano Ham. Spices. A straight shooter.
Taste: Definitely some peat on the palate. Salt and smoke as well. Dry. Serious. Simply fabulous.
Score: 91 points - a real beauty. This could have easily been an Islay malt - like an OMC Ardbeg.
This must be the 'strongest' single malt I've ever tried with a whopping alcohol percentage of nearly 65%.
These were not all (official & independent) bottlings of Talisker Scotch whisky I've tried over the years.
Besides, these tasting notes only reflect my own, personal opinion; your tastes might be different from mine.
Fortunately, you can find the scores and tasting notes from up to two dozen other whisky lovers in the 'Malt Maniacs Monitor' - an independent whisky database with details on more than 15,000 different whiskies from Scotland and the rest of the world. Visit the Talisker page on the MMMonitor and select 'scorecard view' if you want to know how other whisky lovers felt about the dozens of Talisker expressions that were released in recent years. However, if you'd like to learn more about whisky in general (and single malt Scotch whisky in particular), you might want to check out the Beginner's Guide to Scotch whisky (10 chapters filled with everything you need to fully enjoy and appreciate a glass of single malt whisky) or the mAlmanac (sort of a rudimentary whisky shopping guide.)
Is the distillery or