Talisker is one of the first names that scotch whisky drinkers will encounter on their spirit(ed) journey. Its name evokes mental images of the rugged Isle of Skye and their whiskies’ flavours make those images come to life.
That might all sound a bit grand and romantic but that’s my impression of Talisker and it seems to be the case for many. Their flagship 10 year old single malt is world renowned and the standard bearer for maritime peaty whiskies, testament to their 190 year history of whisky making.
With that romantic imagery in mind, the name of this malt, Storm, seems to fit the bill really well within their core range of whiskies. Anyone who has encountered the Hebridean islands will appreciate that the Isle of Skye’s location off the north west coast of Scotland is regularly ravaged with bad weather and has essentially been shaped by the force of the elements.
The bottle described its contents as “an intense Talisker with profoundly maritime character. Like a warm welcome from a wild Hebridean sea.” Little more is said about the whisky itself but a little research finds that it has been matured in refill and toasted American oak casks. It is presented in the distillery’s characteristic blue packaging and has been bottled at their house favourite strength of 45.8% ABV.
I would absolutely love to go to Skye and this is exactly what I think/hope it would smell like by the distillery – based purely on my experiences from their Diageo sister distillery at Lagavulin. Sea-sodden oak barrels resting on the waterfront. Brine and charcoal smoke are first and foremost here in equal measure, throwing one-two punches. Behind all of that, there’s the oak taste itself, along with baking spices, oranges and raisins.
More of the same experiences rattle through your mouth as this hits the lips. The seasalt / maritime / brine experience takes on a new salted guise, this time: Salted butter. The whisky really slips across the tongue. The fruits are there and offering a juicy sweetness, but the peat smoke is king here in the end.
Ooooh it’s long. A fiery and intensifying roll of oak spice takes over everything. Its a real heat too. Just like cracked black pepper.
This is one enjoyable whisky. Really enjoyable. It seems to take the hallmark notes of the Talisker 10 and then crank them up for this malt – the smoke and the seasalt. That may be at the sacrifice of some of the 10’s complexity but it’s still got oodles of what Talisker has come to be known for. The smoke flavour is more like that from a bonfire on the beach, rather than the peat fire that the smoke would originally have come from. The whisky was added to the roster of Talisker core range releases in 2013 and has stood its ground in that range and the test of time. I first picked a bottle up of the Talisker Storm around £30 at the recommendation of Ian Buxton in his 101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die book. I particularly enjoyed the reference to the Michael Fish ad and instantly searched for it. Here’s more about it…
Going back to that price point though, and that’s one of the good things that Talisker have managed to maintain: pretty affordable drams. Sure they’ve got the big age statements for those with deep enough pockets, but a solid core range in the Storm, Skye and Port Ruighe expressions alongside the classic 10 which all seem to hang around the same price point. Don’t like the variation, then go back to the 10.
Back to the dram at hand and this remains quite fresh and more-ish, which you don’t always get with a peaty malt. That said, I still think that is one for the end of the night served in a generous measure. Then maybe another. Maybe. Probably not more than that though. Savour it. Enjoy it. Definitely one storm worth weathering.
Dram disclosure: This is my own bottle. All notes are intended as an honest, fair and independent review of the whisky, and not as a promotion. Please drink responsibly. Please drink wisely.