...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Taliskravaganza! Day 2: Talisker 57º North (original label)

Day 1: Talisker 10 year old
Day 2: Talisker 57º North

For all my whining about the limited variety in Diageo's distilleries' single malts, they have put some effort into Talisker's range.  There's a variety of age statements, a sherry finish, and three new NASes.  There's also the 57º North.  Released initially into travel retail in 2008, 57º North started showing up in European retailer shops a couple years later.

So, what's in a name?  The Talisker distillery sits at 57º North latitude (or approximately 57°18'08.4"N 6°21'24.5"W, please don't ask how long I was manually tinkering with Google Maps to hit that number).  But the whisky is also bottled at 57%ABV, which Diageo mouthpiece Nick Morgan refers to as "almost at cask strength" and "virtually at cask strength" in Roskrow's 1001 Whiskies book.  He also admits that not having an age statement "gives us greater flexibility with it."  For all my criticism of Morgan (none of which do I take back), this is a shocking bit of honesty and disclosure by The Diageo Man.  Almost every whisky producer calls their high ABV releases "cask strength" even though very often the releases are not in fact bottled at the actual strength of the whisky in the cask.  So, 57% is what 57º North is bottled at, a very high strength for a Diageo release.

I was excited to try this.  I've always eyed it via the online European retailers, but didn't want to go in on a bottle blindly.  So, I bought a sample from Master of Malt.  Then while reading up about 57º North, I saw that it's matured only in refill ex-bourbon casks.  That made me wonder, would this be more like the Talisker I ed so?
Distillery: Talisker
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Isle of Skye
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Maturation: refill ex-bourbon casks
Age: NAS
Alcohol by Volume: 57% (or 100 UK proof)

The color is medium gold, noticeably lighter than the 10 year old.  On the nose there's ocean air, lemon peel, pine sappy peat, vanilla syrup, milk chocolate, and cardamom.  There's a little bit of buttery oak, but much less than on the 10.  Then I'm finding the following: cumin, chili powder, and curry with lime juice (no one else is finding these notes so maybe I'm crazy).  Finally, there's a soft development of baklava with lavender syrup.  The palate leads with chili powder, peat smoke, and dried grasses. Minerally, salty. Mint ice cream, cinnamon candy, and a malt wallop.  It finishes long, lean, and grassy.  Notes of vanilla beans, cinnamon, peat moss, and soil linger together.

Oh hot damn.

Water brings more fruit and brighter spices out of the nose.  It's still grassy.  Maybe herbal, like a crisp gin.  And then some of that cinnamon candy.  The palate is still lean and salty.  There's the hay note, along with milky coffee and lime.  A sweetness appears then quickly dissolves.  Puffs of smoke in the finish, along with a light bitterness.  Some vanilla beans and caramel sauce.

This is my jam.

It's got the arse-kicking youth.  The oak doesn't get out of hand.  It's grassy, minerally, salty, and seaside-y.  And since it's already at the beach, it can swim.  It's not hugely complex on the palate, but its minimalism is solid.  And even if those eastern spice notes were figments of my nasal passages, the whisky noses nicely.

When it first came out, one could grab a bottle from Europe for $70-$80 including shipping.  In fact it was still less than $90 a couple years ago.  But now, unless you put together a big order, it's tough to get it for less than $100.  Some of this has to do with gradual price increases, but it's mostly due to the fact that the USD isn't doing so well against the EUR and GBP.  If you're a person who's already paying $85-$90 for Glenfarclas 105, then this sort of pricing probably won't scare you off.  Though some of the rest of us would be nervous about laying out that kind of cash.

But do we have to go through Europe to get the 57ºNorth?  Well......the American TTB approved this label in June 2013.  So are we going to get this dang bottle or what?  And what are you going to charge us?  Oh, er, I mean never mind.  I'm supposed to be boycotting Diageo.  Super.

Availability - Europe and duty free
Pricing - $95-$120 (700mL) depending on order size; some duty free shops have a full liter for 75GBP ($125) which is a better $/mL ratio.
Rating - 91