Talisker 18 Year Old

Spirit Name:
Spirit Type:
Talisker 18 Year Old 
Single malt

Score:
90/1003, medal, silver icon
ABV:
45.8%
Region:
Isle of Skye, Scotland
Body:
Full
Intensity:
Strong
Texture:
Medium-oily
Balance:
Near perfect, with drying spiciness towards the end
Best served:
 
Neat
Theme(s):
Sweet mellowed peat, maritime/coastal notes, spices including paprika, vanilla, toffee, fatty (nut oils), chocolate, cherries, brininess, drying (middle-end), drying white wine, glazed ham, wood, barbecue – deliciously integrated flavours with the peat complimenting rather than dominating the other character.
Thoughts:
I tasted the Talisker 18 Year Old at Whisky Live Melbourne in 2013, and while it was enjoyable I did not really give it a second thought at the event. A couple of months later I had a yearning to review some more peaty whiskies, and I was given the opportunity to review a bottle of Talisker 18 Year Old in my private tasting room. The outcome of my blind tastings is the perfect example why whisky festivals, events, bars etc are not the best place to assess whiskies for “enjoy-ability” – the older Talisker 18 Year Old offers peat that has been softened in the aging process, which in turn means in my view that its subtle shades of character can easily be missed as the taste buds adjust after an onslaught of more aggressive whiskies. 
 
My favourite Talisker of all time is the 25 year old (bottled in 2008), but this 18 year old comes a very close second. It is spirited for an 18 year old single malt, but it also offers a softened peat within its more sophisticated oak, spice and maritime layers. The spices are layered and very complex, which reflects the eighteen years of aging on the Isle of Skye – the result is a peat that compliments coastal notes, saltiness, spice and sweetness. The softened peat (as a whisky ages its peat character tends to soften) allows a coastal/maritime brininess to shine with crackles of spice and this moderates and mellows the vanilla notes and cask driven sugars, which means that this whisky is not too sweet and it progressively becomes dryer with intensifying shades of spiciness.

Blind tasting notes:

Nose: After being allowed to settle, the subtle notes that make up the character of this whisky’s bouquet begin to emerge – mild sweet peat radiates gently with glazed cherries, dark chocolate, sea salt, salted caramel, spearmint fisherman’s friends, parsley butter, scorched and peeled almonds, cotton or linen and a coastal charm interlaced with a sharpness and fattiness that resembles the whiff of a cold fresh oyster topped with crushed avocado with a dash of lime and cracked pepper. What seemed at first blush to be a dull and uninteresting whisky, with some patience, has unfurled into a hugely entertaining dram – Mariah Carey got it right when she said “love takes time”.  This whisky is extremely well balanced because the character wafts up as one seamless whole and it takes a lot of unpacking to pick apart the beautiful bouquet. The soothing vanillas pick up towards the end with whipped cream, chocolate and peat that melds together with the other character rather than dominating the show – the peat compliments rather than overtakes the other character therefore allowing that character to shine with the peat. After some time the aroma of lemongrass and fresh ginger develops with cherry cola and those coastal aromas. 
 
Taste: The wave of character comes flooding in with more bravado and energy than the nose suggests. It thumps the palate with peat that quickly recedes into a chorus of flavours – the peat falls into line and is accompanied by coastal notes and a saltiness that is moderated by soft vanillas, sweet toffee apple, honeyed almonds and macadamia nuts and a lingering after-taste of mussels cooked with dry white wine and cream sauce. There is a brininess and dryness here that develops after an initial surge of sweetness, showcasing lots of oak driven character, complex sugars and an herbaceous twist with some citrus rind. Sparks of spice then shine within that dry fog, intensifying into sweet paprika. 
 
Finish: The coastal notes linger with sea salt and a refreshing bite of caramel with a dominating spicy barbecue flavour morphing into sweet glazed ham. This is soft, gentle and subtle but with proper care it is sensational whisky!   

Likes:
Complex, soft peat integrates nicely with other character
Warnings:
This beauty can be easily misunderstood, and its subtle shades of character overlooked
Price:
$150 (Aus), £74 (UK)
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