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Sunday, 5 February 2017

Talisker Dark Storm Whisky Review!

Ah, Talisker, the medium-to-lightly peated whisky from the Isle of Skye. Their 10-year old was the first peated single malt I ever tasted, and it was eye opening, although it was then immediately followed by Lagavulin 16, which absolutely decimated it. The distillery has released a myriad of NAS bottlings since then, including this travel exclusive 'Dark Storm'.

To be fair, I do still enjoy the 10-year old Talisker, although I feel it's held back a little by chill-filtration and loads of artificial colouring (much like most of Diageo's entry-level expressions). It's also being pushed to the wayside these days by a few similarly priced and similarly presented non-age statement bottlings, namely the 'Skye' and 'Storm', neither of which have really impressed me. I found the new entry-level 'Skye' to be very disappointing in particular, far too gentle and too 'conformist', almost completely devoid of Talisker's calling cards of salt & pepper, although that's probably exactly what they were going for. But I'm a big fan of the 57 North and 18-year old, and I hope those two and the 10-year old expression aren't going away any time soon. Time will tell!

This expression, the travel / duty free-exclusive 'Dark Storm', is matured in 'heavily charred casks', and is supposedly the peatiest & smokiest of the range. I can't see how it could possibly be peatier than the 57% ABV '57 Degrees North', especially considering the distillery only produces the one base spirit, but hey, let's find out anyway. The Dark Storm is quite reasonably priced, at around $95 AUD for a 1-litre bottle, and is bottled at Talisker's standard strength of 45.8%. Which means it's definitely chill-filtered, and it's definitely had plenty of artificial colouring added. It's also important to remember that the majority of Talisker's whisky is not matured on the Isle of Skye, it's mostly transported by tanker to centralised warehouses on the mainland of Scotland. Which is fine, many distilleries do the same for various reasons, but it's something to keep in mind.

As a quick point of interest, the first officially non-chill filtered Talisker was released in 2016, the travel-exclusive and non-age statement 'Neist Point'. It's not exactly cheap at around $220 AUD for 700ml, but at least it could be a step in the right direction. I'd be very interested to try it, but it's a little too pricey to buy untested, if you ask me. Not that I travel overseas often enough to be able to buy it anyway! Ah, the wonderful world of travel-exclusive bottlings.

And one more point of interest before we get stuck in, which I either never knew or had forgotten about, is that Talisker uses (and has always used) worm tub condensers, much like Mortlach and Benrinnes (have a read here for more information in a previous review), to cool the alcohol vapours coming from it's odd number of three spirit stills (paired with only two wash stills). As it happens the odd number of stills are a throwback to the triple-distillation which was practiced at the distillery until the late 1920s. So perhaps this large commercial distillery isn't quite as modernised and commercialised as some purists believe.

Talisker 'Dark Storm', NAS, 45.8%. Isle of Skye, Scotland.
Matured in 'heavily charred casks'. Chill filtered, added artificial colouring. Duty free / travel exclusive.

Colour: Orange-y amber. Artificial looking... 

Nose: Sweet & salty. Brine, lots of sweet stone fruit, citrus boiled sweets / lollies. Dusty old red apples and some toasted oak, and a hint of bitterness. Was quite hot initially, needed some extra breathing time in the glass, but calmed down nicely. 

Texture: Light-medium weight, a little heat but not unpleasant or off-putting. 

Taste: Salty, peppery and fruity. Not getting much smoke, but there is a little earthy peat there, although it doesn't hang around for long. More old red apples and stone fruit, the brine and black pepper is there, but it's a little subdued compared to the 10 year old, if memory serves.

Finish: Short length. A little heat, a drying chilli spice initially. Then a little soapy and lightly floral, and some dry earthy peat that hangs around a little longer now. Then spirit-y again, fades to leave that old red apple and a hint of salt. 

Score: 2.5 out of 5.

Notes: I must admit, I liked this one more than I thought I would! The nose is enjoyable, although quite sweet and not particularly complex, and it's nice on the palate as well, but falls over when it comes to the finish. I'm still keen to try the new Neist Point expression, but so far none of the newer Talisker expressions have impressed me. I'd suggest sticking to the 'traditional' 10- and 18-year old, and 57 North for your Talisker fix, or the sherry-finished Distiller's Edition if you're looking for something a little different. The distillery makes some excellent whisky, this one just didn't quite hit the mark for me. 

Honestly, if you're looking for a good value peaty single malt on your way through a duty-free / travel retail store, just head straight for Laphroaig PX if you ask me. It's only a few dollars more than this Talisker, still comes in a 1-litre bottle, and is bottled at a higher strength without the chill-filtration and caramel colouring. And it tastes fantastic.