Ripley, a regular reader, has accepted my invitation to submit some of his own scotch whisky reviews. I like his insights and more importantly, he is a peat head. I mean a fan of the big, peaty and smoke infused malts of Islay, and in the case of tonight's post, the Isle of Skye. Me, I am more of a mainland (Speyside, Highland, etc.) rube. I think it is important to have divergent opinions on scotch, some from the Speyside perspective and some from the Islay/Isle of Skye. Ripley will advise on appreciating the latter. So, here is Ripley's review:
Do you remember learning how to ride a bike? I mean the actual moment you went from "trying" to actually doing it without thinking? At that moment, did you finally understand how to ride the bike - did you finally get all the instructions? I'm betting the answer to the last question is no - you didn't finally know something you didn't before, your body just did it without you thinking about it.
For me, learning how to drink whisky has been a lot like learning how to ride a bike some forty years ago. I tried lots of different suggestions, read all I could and tried to relate it to what I was tasting, and occasionally rode a few feet without falling. But one day it just all clicked together (I rode a few blocks without falling) and it was "ah ha" this is what whisky is all about! Like you develop balance on a bike, you develop an ability to smell and taste sometimes very subtle, sometimes very different, components within the malt. At least for me, I have never had drink nor food that has as much complexity and requires so much of my senses to fully comprehend and appreciate.
Unfortunately, I first tried Talisker 10 when I still had my 'training wheels' on. With my newbie senses, I could only taste big smoke which overwhelmed my ability to detect all the other components of this malt. I wasn't even able to detect the subtlety within the smoke (like the obvious sweetness). It wasn't until months later, when I had much stronger smoky/peaty malts (Islay), that I had my significant ah ha moment. What has become abundantly clear to me is that time is required for appreciating whisky. Time between sips, time for each dram to breathe, time for water to mix, time between each trial, time to learn etc, etc, etc...
Personally, my "drams" are only about 1/2 to 3/4 oz (about 1/3 to 1/2 a normal dram). As Jason has suggested many times, I drink plenty of water between sips - this has got to be the #1 best tip of any I've read/heard. I'll wait 1/2 hour or more to go back for another "dram". Before my tasting, and sometimes during, I cleanse my palate with a little sour dough bread (Jason likes French bread). Each time I go back, especially the longer I've waited, the more I smell and taste. In fact, for me, the Islays and other "peaty" malts, get sweeter at each tasting. The point is, read other's opinions and just experiment and try different things - you'll discover what works best for you!
On to the Talisker 10. But one last thing! Unlike Jason, I am definitely a peat-head, as soon as I hit the Islay islands (so to speak), I knew I found my home. With that one caveat behind us, I think you may find this review interesting. With that said, give each malt it's own few nights or space of time with yourself. If you break it up with a powerful one like a peat monster, you won't likely be able to appreciate any subtlety on its own.
Talisker is the only distillery on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. In many ways, Talisker is a closer cousin to the other Island whiskys (Islay, Orkney), than to it's mainland brethren. But despite these similarities, it is quite unique from them as well.
The color is an area I haven't paid much attention to before, but it's a nice golden-brown hue in the tumbler. If it was in a burgundy or wine glass, I may be able to tell you about its legs...but it's not.
The first nose is pure smoke and a light peat medicine (clean band-aidish) scent. Second and subsequent nosing's are increasingly richly sweet like a sweet almond biscuit with a little sea-salt banana around the edges. The peaty scent starts fading in the background as the sweetness increases.
Crispy caramel banana sweetness in front with a big kick of pepper dryness in the middle then a peaty top note. This one you can roll around and around your mouth for a long time picking out the different levels. The texture is right in the middle between light and thick, perfect for rolling.
This has a short to middling length finish. You get a light smoke and crispy burnt-sugar aftertaste. It's very pleasant but not long-lasting, which is perfectly acceptable since this isn't a peat-monster.
As I have learned, the complexity of the whisky grows as your experience with it, and it is definitely not tangible with just the first dram. This is a very nice whisky, much more complex than when I first tried it. The depth is both subtle and obvious - very interesting for a growing relationship. This is actually surprisingly malty-sweet, with a kick of pepper peat. This particular characteristic (hidden and growing sweetness) is quite common with peaty malts (at least for me), but is something I only recently learned and experienced. I love this particular element about them and about the Talisker 10 in particular.
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