October 22, 2012

Talisker 25 Year - A Wise Old Beast from the Isle of Skye

The Isle

Go to The Isle of Skye.  You really need to go.  It's a hilly place full of tall people living in short houses.  Apparently this is because many of the structures were built when the British population was mostly people of short stature prior to being invaded and interbred with tall vikings.  Seriously...

Black-faced goats and highland bulls that look like bright orange Muppets prowl the countryside.

Highland Bull
There are mountains, called the Black Cullins and the Red Cullins.  The Black Cullins are taller and more rocky.  The Red Cullins are still pretty tall and rocky.  If you climb either of the Cullins,   you will spend a full day walking almost completely vertically against a crumbly shale terrain.  Before you reach the top, your thighs will burn and your feet will kill.  Once you get to the top, if you're lucky enough to find one of the seldom clear days, you will see a view to end all views.  The isle, the ocean, the sky.  Skye.

The Red Cullins
When you return to the blessed ground, massage your aching legs, and find the strength to run to the nearest watering hole, you will find nirvana.  Fellow weary hikers sitting at long family-style picnic tables greet you with open arms.  Everyone is far too exhausted and exhilarated to be anything but ecstatic to share a fine whisky, a beer chaser, and wait for their respective rides to come and pick them up.

The drink of the day:  Talisker - the only distillery native to the Isle of Skye.

The standard Talisker that you will find in a bar is the 10-year bottling.  This is one of the finest malts you will find for under $50.  We will post a review of the 10-year at a later date along with some other wonderful mid-cost options.  Today our sights are higher.

Hubby was in Skye climbing the Red Cullins in the '90s.  Some twenty years later, we went to Astor Wines (www.astorwines.com) and found a bottle of Talisker 25-year.  You can buy it here.  It's cool to think that this whiskey was in fact sitting in a barrel a few miles from those mountains half a lifetime ago.

The Review

Short answer:  Talisker 25 is a true Smoky Beast!

It has about 60% of the peat smoke of Lagavulin.  Which is a lot.  It also has amazing smoothness and warmth.  And the color is a beautiful dark, dark caramel.  The taste is mature and you know immediately that you're drinking an extremely high-quality whisky.  It's a rich, smoky and peaty taste.  Not overwhelming, but very full-bodied and rewarding.  There is definitely a sweet overtone to the taste, a very rich and spicy quality, and the unmistakeable subtle warm fire that only comes with very mature aged whisky.

The Straight Skinny

Ok at $159.99 per bottle, this whisky is a B+.  If you have $160 to spend and are looking for something that you haven't tried yet, by all means buy this bottle.  It is better than 90% of whiskies available at this price. If you are a huge fan of Talisker, and want to treat yourself to something special, buy this bottle.

Comparison to other bottling

If you can find it, the Talisker 18 is a wonderful choice.  The catch is that it used to be available at most liquor stores for between $70 and $100.  It disappeared for a couple of years and now it's back at a whopping $150.  That's tough.  If you can find it at $100, pick it up.

Honestly, the Talisker 10 is a wonderful whisky and is available at $49/bottle.  Talisker 12 - bottled under the "Friends of Classic Malts" brand, is also wonderful at around $75/bottle.

The Talisker 25 is a better whisky than either the 10 or 12 year.  But it's not three times better.  If you love Talisker, like I do, and if you're looking to splurge, buy this bottle and enjoy it.  It will last you a long time.  But my honest recommendation is to buy a bottle of the 10-year first.  If you love it, see if you can get a bottle of the 18.  If you can't get the 18, or you really want to go all out, treat yourself and buy the 25.  But you're not really missing that much between the 18 and the 25, and the 10 or 12 is a honestly a very good representation of the whisky.

There is also a Talisker 30-year, which one day I will find the opportunity to review.  Here's hoping.  It's around $300/bottle and also quite hard to track down.  Don't worry, google alert is already humming...

Again, the Talisker 25 is a beautiful whisky with a complex, peaty, warm, and smooth taste.  It will not disappoint.  Is it the best value?  No.  But is it a seriously smoky and beastly date for a rainy weekend that should not be missed.