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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Single Malt Report: Talisker 25 year old (2012 bottling)

Yesterday it was the whisky on the left, today it's the one on the right.

In 2011, when whisky exports really blasted off, Diageo was faced with a supply and demand issue with their lauded Talisker 25 year old.  Demand was up but supply was limited.  So they were faced with two solutions when it came to produce the 2011 bottling.  They could water it down a little and thus increase the supply.  Or they could raise the price on it in order to temper and/or cash in on the demand.

They did both.  They watered it down and raised the price.  Revealing their true character as a rotten parasitic drug dealer, they added powdered baby laxative to their cocaine then withheld it from their addict customers unless they were paid more for it.

I'm quite serious.  They were asking whisky fans to pay up to $100 extra for a half cup of water in the bottle.

On the bright side, there are now lots of 45.8% ABV bottles of Talisker 25 on the shelves.  It seems like even the whisky junkies aren't desperate enough to pay $350-$450.  So if you're willing and possess the shilling, they (the bottles, not the junkies) are yours!

So, with all of this being said, how did I wind up with a quarter bottle of the 2012 release?  One of the states in our union has a liquor board that runs deep clearance sales each month.  This state liquor board decided to price their remaining bottles of Talisker 25 at $139.  Yup, $139.  So, four of us split a bottle.  The three others, celebrities all, were Sir MAO of North Opinionston, St. Jordan of Port Ester, and Florin, backup midfielder for Ghana.  See here for MAO's review.  See here for Jordan's review.  Florin has yet to weigh in on the whisky as striking unionized plumbers are still chasing him around the half-built stadium in Porto Alegre.

As mentioned yesterday, I did a little Taste Off between the 2001 release and this 2012 release.  I followed it up with a second round to double check my notes.  Here it goes.

Shiny packaging!

Distillery: Talisker
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Isle of Skye
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Maturation: Likely a combination of ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks
Bottled: 2012
Age: 25 years
Alcohol by Volume: 45.8%
Limited bottling: 6318
Chillfiltered? Likely so, per my observation
Caramel Colored? Yarp.

The color is DiageoGold™.  In the nose, I'm not getting much in the way of peat or smoke.  But there's definitely lots of wet sand and black peppercorns.  There's both toasty American oak and some naked spirit, but they sit separate from each other.  Citron, vanilla, grass, cinnamon, newspaper ink, more vanilla, and orange-flavored dried cranberries.  Then there's the unmistakable scent of cardboard box.  Much more peat on the palate, very mossy.  Hints of gold raisins and cranberries meet a glassful of caramel sauce.  It's malty and sugary with quite a bit of cayenne pepper.  A light grassiness eventually develops alongside fresh lemons and limes.  The lively peat moss continues into the finish.  As does the pepper, lemons, and limes.  There's a hint of smoke, but overall it's very sweet.

More citrus and sand in the nose.  Orange and lime and cardamom.  Some brief peat moss.  A candied note develops amidst some dustiness.  There's a decent amount of pepper in the palate.  Some vanilla, meek peat, coconut cream.  Nothing aggressive.  Pleasantly dry, spicy, and drinky.  Sorta like an old blend.  As for the finish, not much.  Peeps of pepper, salt, and sugar.  Tangy yogurt, along with touches of smoke and vanilla.

A quote, out of context:

"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."
--L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between

Or maybe the context sort of works in a tiny whisky-related way.  While there's no heartache or death involved, there is no doubt something that has been lost in Diageo's process changes in the new Talisker 25s.  It could be lower quality casks.  It could be a change in the blending recipe.  Or it could be Diageo's values, er, hydration choices.  I hesitated to add even a drip of water to the 2012 edition because it already felt extremely light when drinking it neatly.  This is no longer a tiger.  It's a thin sleepy tabby.

The whisky itself isn't bad at all.  The nose is good, aside from the cardboard note (which Jordan also notes in his review).  The palate is decent, like a good aged blend.  It's upper B-grade whisky.  But next to the 2001 edition, it's sad.  As you'll see below, I'm giving it the same grade as I gave the ten year old.  And that wasn't a better version of the 10.  Frankly, the ten year old is still more interesting, (positively) challenging, and bolder once one gets through the oak issues.  The 25-2012 is more graceful and silky, but that's about it.

If the stores in your area are selling this for over $400, my condolences.  That would make for one of the worst price-quality-ratios in its range.  At the old $250 price tag, it's still wobbly.  If you want to spend $100+ on an older Talisker, I recommend you seek out the 18 year old with the previous label (see here).  That lively, graceful, and delicious malt is one of my all time favorites (though I'm not yet sure about its newest version, either).

Availability - Most specialty liquor retailers
Pricing - $300-$500
Rating - 87