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Monday, February 13, 2017

Talisker 57º North (Current Label)

I reviewed the original label version of Talisker 57º North during the previous Taliskravaganza, three years ago, and found the stuff to be pretty awesome. I never got around to buying a bottle because its price had sailed over $100. The American TTB had approved the 57º North's label nearly four years ago, so I was also waiting for it to show up here. But it never did.

The 57º North's label got a design update, along with the rest of the range, in late 2012. That was right about the time that Talisker 10yo's quality started going downhill (in my opinion), thus I was even less motivated to buy the 57º. Thanks to Saint Brett of Riverside, I have a sample of the current labelled edition right here with me. Time to give it a try.

Distillery: Talisker
Ownership: Diageo
Type: Single Malt
Region: Isle of Skye
Age: NAS
Maturation: some version of American oak barrels
Alcohol by Volume: 57%
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel colored? Yes

Its color is DiageoGold™, as expected. The nose starts off salty and remarkably fruity (honeydew, white peach and pear). Then vanilla bean, walnuts and lemons. A happy lack of ethyl heat. Ah, but the palate is very hot. Loads of ginger, peppercorns and cinnamon. It's very tangy with a sticky sweetness and some barrel char. The heat continues through the finish. It ends with vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, sweet citrus and woody bitterness.

WITH WATER (~45.8%abv)
It gets very cloudy very quickly. Eucalyptus and cocoa powder on the nose. Then wood char, pie dough and caramel sauce. The palate is desserty sweet. It's also loaded with black pepper and woody bitterness. An occasional mothball. Keeps coming back to the intensely sugary note that reminds me of lemon bars. The finish is sweet and woody, full of lemons and vanilla.

This is an example of a whisky with an exceptional nose and an unexceptional palate. And a mediocre finish. This is likely due to two unsurprising factors: lots of oak and under-matured spirit.

New and rejuvenated American oak can produce a lot of rich bold smells, but it can't hide young whisky; instead, it becomes the pig's lipstick. So, while this whisky's nose displays more depth than that of the two 5yo indie Taliskers I reviewed last week, the palate feels as rough or rougher. Adding water doesn't help matters since it brings the wood to the fore. But, on the bright side, the nose is excellent.

American scotch enthusiasts don't have to spend over $100 to get 57º North from Europe, thanks to the weakness of the euro and pound. But still, it will set you back $80-$90. It's just not worth it, to me. I'd recommend seeking out the version with the old label instead.

Availability - Many specialty whisky retailers in Europe and Asia
Pricing - $80-$90 shipped from Europe, w/shipping, w/o VAT
Rating - 82 (the nose is the only thing keeping it out of the 70s)