Mist And Mellow Fruitfulness
The much-loved single malt whisky maker from the famously foggy isle has been spreading its wings recently with a number of new releases
Article by Ian Buxton
First came Storm, closely followed by Dark Storm (a travel retail exclusive): now the distillery have released Talisker Skye. A little controversy attaches to all three, as some readers may be disappointed that all are non-aged – but fear not, the iconic 10 Years Old expression is secure. So, too, are older aged versions, though they are necessarily limited by the available stock and may from time to time prove hard to find. A little patience and diligent searching will bring due rewards however and, reassuringly, all the new whiskies are bottled at Talisker’s classic 45.8 per cent abv.
But what of the new whiskies? The aim, according to Diageo’s Dr Jim Beveridge, is to show off a range of styles, starting with Storm where the aim is to offer a more intense and smoky flavour, with enhanced and vibrant maritime notes, while smoothly balancing this delivery with Talisker’s signature hot sweetness.
“We wanted to focus on distillery character – the bedrock of Talisker Storm,” explains Beveridge, “so we sought out some great mature Talisker, enriched and mellowed by time spent in carefully rejuvenated casks, and brought that together with some very fresh distillery character preserved by maturation in refill casks. The result is Talisker’s unique distillery character delivered by aged, mature whiskies, integrated in one vibrant dram”.
Dark Storm – as you can probably guess – is Storm, but taken to a new level of flavour intensity. Cask selection is the key here, the heavily charred oak in which the whisky has matured ensuring additional spiciness and distinctive smoky character. It’s an engaging new tune if ever you find yourself over the sea to Skye.
So against this background, I was intrigued to trot along to London’s Canal Museum recently, transformed for the evening with mist (well, a smoke machine), music and moody lighting to give visitors at least an impression of the rugged grandeur of this most beautiful Hebridean island. What, I wondered, would I make of the most recent release, Talisker Skye?
Somewhat to my surprise, the blenders have conjured from the wood a further demonstration of the distillery’s versatility, while remaining true to its core flavour. Skye starts gently enough with the glorious citrus sweetness of fresh oranges. But the initial sweetness is deceptive – behind this, a maritime air with fresh seaweed, dry driftwood and sea salt, backed by classic Talisker notes of comforting smoke kicks in. More spice yields a peppery and slightly earthy nose-feel.
The palate, soft and sweet at first, does not disappoint. It’s coating and tongue tingling, with very light smoke. That sweetness quickly becomes more savoury (salted caramels and BBQ ribs to the fore) with subtle smoke and the signature hot spiciness. After this, it’s gently chewy with some herbal notes. With water – and this dram is happy to carry a wee drop – the taste remains salty, though less so, after a lightly sweet start.
Scottish poet Robert Louis Stevenson famously described Talisker as “the king ‘o drinks as I conceive it”. With these latest releases the distillery has a claim to whisky’s Triple Crown.