December 8, 2012

Talisker Distiller's Edition - A Bona Fide Beast

We couldn't stay away from Skye.  From The Men of Tain.  From Talisker...

Pleasant Surprise
Walking through Beacon Wines we spied a new release, The Distiller's Edition - distilled in 2001 and bottled in 2012, an 11-year variety that's been double matured in Amoroso sherry casks.  Here's how it's described on the box:

"Richer than the regular bottling, this wonderfully rounded DISTILLER'S EDITION double-matured in ex-Amoroso casks has a lucious, fruity sweetness that perfectly complements the crisp, dry peat-smoke and familiar pepperiness of Talisker."

The first thing you'll notice is the gorgeous dark lush color.  As we discussed last time, there is a lot of controversy over the practice of using caramel to color whisky and some poor attempts to color whisky in order to fake the dark colors that result from barrel-aging.  There's only one way to tell if a beautifully dark whisky is the real deal and that is the taste.  A well-aged sherry cask whisky should have rich wood overtones of oak mixed with a slight tinge of sweetness and grape left over from the sherry.

Warm & Cozy
So the question is, does the flavor add up?  The answer: a resounding yes.  One of the classic characteristics of a well-aged scotch is that the fire of the liquor fades and is replaced by a warm smoothness.  The longer the whisky is exposed to the wood, the more it mellows and settles into it's core attributes.  This Talisker is like sitting on a large stone hearth several feet away from a blazing fire.  It's a comfortable warmth that speaks of connection to fire without the burn.

The other give-away of a truly barrel-aged dark whisky is the hint of whatever type of hooch was previously aged in the barrel, in this case sherry.  A faint plummy sweetness graces the aftertaste of this beautiful beast as it moves past your tongue.

The below bottle fueled a weekend of country fires, grilling steaks outside in below-freezing temperatures, and long hours of slow sips and rolling conversation.

Here is a candid shot of our bottle of Talisker by the fire:

We had several people taste the bottle.  Two were veteran SmokyBeast insiders.  One was a total whisky noob.  And one was already drunk.

Across the board, there was one singular response:  "Wow that's smooth!"

This is a bona fide beast.  Full smoke hits you across your sinuses and settles behind your throat.  Then the sweetness hits your palate, honey and molasses, apricots and vanilla.  Then finally a finish of grape and warmth.

After the first taste, a particular shared circumstance:  Eyebrows raise, lips curl in smile, and there's a moment of pensiveness as the drinker tries to formulate an appropriate response.  Then, simply, "Wow that's smooth!"

It's around 75% of full smoke, and 50% of full peat flavor.  The sweetness and body of the flavor balance the smoke perfectly.  There's no need for a drop of water.  No rocks.

Wifey's Tasting Notes

Nose: A little fruity, like a combo citrus/cherry.

Body: Getting a very dry, woodsy taste, maybe a little chamomile tea, along with a hint of the citrus I got in the nose.

Finish: More of the citrus/cherry idea

Hubby's Tasting Notes

Nose: Roasting birch and pine in the fireplace.  Bourbon and Bordeaux.  Tobleron chocolate bars.

Body: It moves very fast across the palate.  First a burst of fruit, definitely feeling the citrus/chamomile reference (like the first sip of herbal tea when some of the lemon lines the rim of the mug).  Then immediately to the back of the tongue with honey, bee's wax, and tangerine.  And then just as fast to the smoke with a slight

Finish: It's a throaty finish.  Very little burn in the mouth, but a lovely warm tingle in the back of the throat.  Smoke rising up to the top of the head.  More smoke than peat.  A really nice balance of fruit, smoke, and wood.

Be careful.  This beast goes down so easily, and so enjoyably, that you will be three or four glasses in without even knowing it.  The bottle evaporates like dew on a mountain morning when the sun clears the clouds.  With four or five drinkers, it may disappear within a couple of hours.

The Review
At $70.99 we give this beast a straight "A".  We loved the 25 year, though couldn't give it the best value for the money.  This bottle is just as smooth, and arguably more intricate with the overtones of sherry.  It makes drinking too easy, greeting you glass by glass with enduring kindness and subtlety.  Pick it up.  You will not be disappointed.