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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Single Malt Report: Talisker 18 year old 1979 Cadenhead's Authentic Collection

Today I'm reviewing a 18 year old Talisker, distilled in 1979, bottled by Cadenhead in their old tall green bottle "Authentic Collection".  It comes to this blog courtesy of the most generous Cobo.

My experience with the Authentic Collection is about 50/50.  Half of the time I find these very high ABV whiskies to be intensely hot and tight.  Water tames the heat, but does little to open up the whisky.  The other half of the time, these whiskies prove to be excellent.  Let's see how this one -- which I've been waiting to find an excuse to open -- fares.

Distillery: Talisker
Ownership: Diageo
Independent Bottler: Cadenhead's
Range: Authentic Collection
Age: 18 years old (July 1979 - April 1998)
Maturation: "Oak Cask", yup
Region: Isle of Skye
Alcohol by Volume: 61.1%
(Thanks to Cobo!)

The color is of pale straw, which is often the color of the whiskies in this range.  The nose starts off with just ocean, burnt wood, and a seaweed-peat combo.  Then suddenly there are peated cinnamon buns, shortbread, lemon, and smoked toffee.  The palate leads with peat cinders and a generous helping of chili oil.  Behind that, there are smaller notes of smoked almonds, fruity shisha, and cherry candy.  Lots of smoked salt in the finish.  Then lemon juice, shortbread, and barley.

Okay, this whisky feels closed.  Adding water...

WITH WATER (~50%abv)
Out come the lemons in the nose, and some faint limes and tart peaches. Then paste, seaweed, and white frosting.  The palate has cinnamon, salt, cigars, and black peppercorns.  In the finish the pepper goes more cayenne.  Still the salt, cinnamon, and tobacco.

Trying a little more water to see what happens...

WITH WATER (~43%abv)
In the nose, the peat gets slightly farmier.  Still lots of ocean air.  Now some brown sugar and a hint of jasmine flowers.  A better bitter peat smoke shows up in the palate.  Gentle notes of brown sugar and vanilla get somewhat corrupted by a cardboard note.  The finish is fading, now tingly, sweet, and salty.

I can't believe I'm writing this, but I'd take the new Laphroaig 15yo (reviewed on Tuesday) over this 1979 Talisker without a second thought.  Thanks to previous experiences, my expectations for older Taliskers are set pretty high.  So while this is not a bad whisky, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed.  As referenced earlier, like many of the green bottle Authentic Collection whiskies, this Talisker bottled at a high ABV and shows very little oak.  The latter is a good thing.  The former, not always a good thing.

At full strength it felt tight, but the nose was decent and I enjoyed the big chili oil heat in the palate.  The nose picks up some new complexity at 50%abv, though the palate gets simpler.  At 43% the nose remains nice though simple, while the palate and finish seem to be falling apart.

Had I not known what this was a '70s Talisker perhaps I'd be less critical.  But still, I don't think I'd find it any more expressive or complex.  It's still a peppery barnburner, full of ocean and barley.  And that's about where it stops.

Availability - Auctions?
Pricing - ???
Rating - 83