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Talisker Distillers Edition vs Ardbeg An Oa

News of the Lagavulin Distillers Edition (DE) updated packaging losing its vintage – which will prevent an unofficial age statement and comparison of vintages – made me remember that I have a sample of this Talisker DE.

Since the Laga and Talisker DE are both peated single malts finished in different types of ex-sherry casks, I decided it was a good time to compare the Talisker DE 2013 with Ardbeg’s An Oa, which is a peated single malt with a similar ex-sherry cask influence.

The Talisker DE 2013 was distilled and barreled in 2002, which makes this at least 10 years old, 11 at the most. It was finished in ex-Amoroso sherry casks for an unknown amount of time. Amoroso sherry is a lesser known kind of sherry, wherein Oloroso sherry is mixed with about 10% of Pedro Ximenez (PX) sherry and barrel aged for around four to five years. This style of sherry is said to be exclusive to the El Maestro Sierra bodega.

Ardbeg’s An Oa is another NAS release that’s made up of whisky that’s been aged in ex-PX casks and new American oak and ex-bourbon casks. Then, it’s married in a large French oak vat.

Some of you might be thinking that this isn’t a fair comparison. For one, Talisker isn’t as peaty and smoky as Ardbeg. They don’t even use the same kind of peat. The cask influences and ABV are also not the same… but, what the heck? Consumers love to compare Macallan to Glendronach, or to Aberlour. They aren’t perfect comparisons either. Let’s just see how good and different these two can be.

It’s also an opportunity for me to get reacquainted with peated single malts with ex-wine cask influences. To be honest, this is a style of peated whisky I never really got hooked on, mainly because there weren’t many of them when I was still an exclusive whisky drinker. Aside from the obvious independent bottlings, there were the Talisker, Caol Ila and Lagavulin DEs. But, none were available locally. I think the Kilchoman Loch Gorm and some Laphroaig expressions, like the Cairdeas Portwood, too? Yes, the Uigeadail has some sherry cask influence in it. But if you didn’t know about it, you wouldn’t have been able to guess.

There’s always a bunch of sherry bomb and peated whisky lovers out there looking for peated single malts with sherry influence. Hopefully this will help them out.

The 200ml An Oa sample came from Ardbeg’s “Monster of Smoke” sample pack, which was released to celebrate Ardbeg Day. It came with the same size bottles of Ardbeg 10 and the Wee Beastie. The Talisker sample came from a friend.

Talisker Distillers Edition 2013 – Review

45.8% ABV. £62 from Whisky Auctioneer.

Color: Amber with a pink hue.

On the nose: This is like smelling peated and smoked bread and cereals with a sharp tartness. I get light but lingering aromas of cereals, honey, Fuji apples and something akin to corn bread. After it are bolder aromas of peat, smoke, muddled cherries, raspberries, raisins and sultanas. The sharpness comes with the red fruit aromas.

In the mouth: Not as sharp as on the nose. The notes here are also not as muddled as on the nose. I get light to medium tastes of peat, smoke, cereals, bread, honey, raspberries, cherries, raisins, roasted grapes, moscatel grapes and brine.

Conclusions:

I feel like peated whisky getting some ex-wine cask influence is a give and take. It gives some new combinations of flavors, but it also takes away or covers up some of the more subtle flavors in the whisky.

Safe to say: it’s all about preferences. This is a good whisky. It has good flavors. Plus points for me not getting any hint of sulfur from this. But, I still prefer the ex-bourbon cask-matured 10 year. There are more subtle flavors. The sherry influence here sort of acts like a safety net, preventing me from enjoying the deeper parts of Talisker.

Score: 6/10

Ardbeg An Oa – Review

46.6% ABV. £46.45 on The Whisky Exchange.

Color: Light maroon.

On the nose: A bit reminiscent of the Corryvreckan. I get light to medium aromas of brioche, that crusted and herbed Italian bread you dip in olive oil with vinegar (sherry vinegar included), peat, smoke, rosemary, roasted grapes, tartness, and Japanese nori chips with almonds.

In the mouth: Much more briny up front. I get light to medium tastes of brine, soy sauce, Japanese nori chips with almonds, brioche, rosemary, more herbed Italian bread, peppery, PX sherry tartness, cinnamon syrup, honey, vanilla, Korean barley tea, and roasted grapes.

Conclusions:

This is the clear winner of the two. The flavors are more cohesive compared to the muddled flavors of the Talisker DE. Notice I also didn’t mention the ethanol bite or sharpness despite the higher ABV. I initially didn’t like the An Oa when it first came out. Now, I think this is well-made, plus points for the affordability as well.

An additional note: I think being married in French oak vats gave this bread-like flavors, which made me think of the Corryvreckan.

Score: 7/10

Image of Talisker DE courtesy of Whisky Auctioneer.

CategoriesSingle Malt
John

John is a cocktail and spirits enthusiast born and raised in Manila. His interest started with single malts in 2012, before he moved into rum and mezcal in search of malterntaitves – and a passion for travel then helped build his drinks collection.

  1. Thomas B Cohoon says:

    Thanks for the comparison. I really enjoy both of these expressions. To me the An Oa is really enjoyable like premium barbecued chips in liquid form. Yes it’s similar to Corry but not as complex. I was interested in the recent bottling of Talisker DE your not the only one to grade it a mark below. The Only DE bottles I’ve had recently have been dusties from 2017. 15 and 13 I think. Bottled dates. I’ve been deciding on my next peated/wine bottles to order having just popping a Sanaig.

    1. John says:

      Cheers, Thomas. It’s good to know you like this. I’ll admit I haven’t had a lot of the DEs from Diageo. The reviews I get from them are usually mixed but never bad.

      The Kilchoman ex wine cask stuff are pretty interesting. I have a bottle of the Fino cask and it’s a different take from the usual ex bourbon matured peated whisky. If you can get the ex port cask, I keep hearing good thigns about it too but I havent tried yet.

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