It’s good to see Diageo doing more for the sizeable throngs who visit their distilleries across Scotland by releasing specific distillery exclusives. These are not as desirable as the bottle-your-own experiences that provide enthusiasts with a taste of the true distillery character, without the interference of a master blender or minion in head office, but they are unique and will become prized by collectors unable to visit Scotland.
To date in 2017 I’ve visited Blair Athol, Dalwhinnie and Talisker, all of whom have offered visitors that extra special bottle to take home. These tend to range in price from £75 to £90 so far and they are all in the No Age Statement realm and quite limited on details. There is still room for improvement by Diageo, but at least we’re seeing some movement; just a wee kick up the backside might result in more progress.
For now, we have this Talisker which was only just launched at the distillery a couple of months ago. It is such a hotspot for visitors on the Isle of Skye that I doubt these 6000 bottles will last too long. It’s one of the busiest distilleries for tours with the emphasis being you have to book in advance otherwise you’ll have to sit back and take in the views, whilst waiting for the next available slot.
Talisker is one of my favourite distilleries for its location and rugged style of whisky. It has a salty smoke nature that sums up the impressively foreboding Isle of Skye and has several classic expressions within its ranks. The 10-year-old remains a regular go to dram and whilst the price of the 18-year-old continues to rise; it’s still excellent. Then we have the No Age Statement onslaughts and it’s been hard to keep track of all these Taliskers, but I did come up with a theory for this as part of my recent Talisker Skye review, or you can check out the Talisker vertical I put together a couple of years ago now.
On paper what do we know about this distillery exclusive? It’ll set you back £80 and is limited to 6000 bottles, which for Diageo isn’t a huge outturn but just enough to cater for a season or two of visitors to the distillery. I did ask one of the distillery workers what they knew about the release i.e. possible age, cask composition etc. and I was advised that details were pretty scant coming from headquarters. Word of advice to Diageo, give a little more information other than tasting notes as I could have picked up the 18-year-old for the same price. You’ve got to hope that this isn’t merely pitched at the tourist or flipper and has some substance.
I purchased this to experience another Talisker and report back to you, the faithful reader or lost explorer online. I’ve also shared this with other enthusiasts to minimise the cost, but if it is rather good then I’ll be driving back along to the distillery as I’m on Skye for a couple of days still. Bottled at 48% strength, there are now 5999 bottles out there, so let’s begin…
Colour: worn gold, it must be said not as artificially glowing as some recent Taliskers releases and that’s a good thing.
On the nose: reaching out is that smoky blanket and coastal salt. These are forgone conclusions for Talisker. Whereas Neist Point offered more pungency in an attempt to hide its limitations. Here the experienced nose can pick up more character. Cola cubes, fresh honey, charcoal and right at the end a brief spurt of sweet cinnamon. There’s a strong hickory amongst the smoke and a tarry Lapsang Souchong. I’m also picking up a stick of rock candy, especially after the addition of water and liquorice.
In the mouth: a real kick of smoke pacifies allowing the charred vanilla to step forward. Salted caramel and memories of Stornoway Black Pudding with emphasis on the spices is difficult to shake off. Water should be used sparingly with this whisky but when added at just the right quantity, it unleashed a swarm of sweet sugary toffee smoke that rode into sunset as a prolonged finish.
As I write up this review during a long weekend on the Isle of Skye, it’s safe to say I’ve had several expressions from this distillery since arriving. The Skye expression itself felt watery and lightweight, whist the Neist Point was forceful but lacked any definition. This distillery exclusive in comparison is more rugged, natural and less engineered, or at least if feels that way to me. It’s bold but had some added layers to enjoy.
At £80 you’re paying for the exclusivity of this release. If this was a bog standard bottling, I’d be having a go from a pricing perspective. £50 seems about right and at a guess I’d say 4-6 years of age. Given my experience with some youthful independently bottled Taliskers, it can offer much at such an age. As a limited visitor only souvenir, I’m satisfied with the price versus the experience. Given the storm that is brewing outside and the last flecks of life from the fire embers; this is the perfect dram for the moment.