Thursday, February 17, 2011

Review: Talisker 10 Single Malt Scotch

Talisker  10 years Single Malt Scotch

Beware of Bars
The first time I tried Talisker 10 years single malt scotch was in a fairly posh bar.  You know.  Ground floor of a hotel, adjacent to a fine steak house.  It was dimly lit, dark wood panelling, leather wing-tip chairs, a long bar that was polished to perfection, behind which stood a smartly dressed bartender.

The evening was young and I and two other guys from work were exhausted.  Drained from all day negotiations, the only order of the evening was to talk about anything, so long as it was not work.  For a drink, I ordered Talisker 10.  Never had it before.  Expected a lot and was disappointed.  Just tasted kinda like brine, sea water, pepper and smoke.  I suppose it was malty and not poor to taste.  But not stellar either.  What happened?

Months and years later, subsequent tastings of Talisker proved far more enjoyable.  This lead me to conclude that the bar probably had the bottle open for a long time.  So, moral of the story: beware of bars.  I have been in bars that purport to specialize in scotch whisky only to find many bottles with an inch of spirit left in them, sitting for a year or more resulting in a considerably diminished flavor profile.  Oxygen is the enemy of whisky.  Once you open that bottle, you're on the clock.  Ideally, you want to finish the bottle within six months.  I find that after the six month point you are pushing it unless the bottle is 3/4 full (in which case you have another 6 months to finish it).

If the bartender reaches for the whisky with two fingers left in it, I will tell him to drop it and get me a new one.

Nose (undiluted)
Refined smoke.  Lemon bread.  Very enjoyable.

Palate (undiluted)
Light bodied.  Sweet malted barley followed by billowing smoke and banana.  And finally the peppercorns appear.  

Finish (undiluted)
Drying sea salt, slight dulse and brine. 

General Impressions
Tired of the Speyside honey/cinammon flavor profile?  If so, try Talisker.  Very unique and at first might throw you for a curve, but you will think about it and come back for more.  A classic if there ever was one.

I have noticed that upon opening the bottle, this scotch is quite peppery, but that quality is tamed by exposure to air.  Taming this lion of a scotch is fine.  He still has his claws, so long as you tame the bottle completely within six months!  Highly recommended to novices and the serious scotch nut.  Reasonable price too.  Often can be found on sale too.


Jason Debly

P.S. For another review on this site conducted by a serious Talisker nut, click here.

Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-present. All rights reserved.


  1. Very interesting the differing opinions I hear of this whisky. Sometimes I hear it's very dry-you find it has a sweetness. Some say the peat is at Islay level (at least at the bottom end?), you have not even said the word "peat" once in this review. Whisky is a most interesting creature!

  2. Nice review! I'm a HUGE fan of Talisker. I love your note about the time limit upon opening a bottle, and though I've never noticed it before I'll start trying to pick up on the difference. (When I buy a bottle it rarely lasts for anywhere near 6 months, admittedly, but it never occurred to me that a bar would keep one that long.)

    Curious if you've ever had Edradour, which I bought on a whim many years ago & found to be utterly foul. Strangely enough, I thought the aftertaste to, fish. FISH. A Kiwi friend of mine suggested that perhaps I got a "duff bottle," (which I understand does happen) but I haven't been brave enough, or rich/brave enough, to find out.

    Can I request that your next review be Edradour? On the bottle they claim to be the smallest scotch distillery, so perhaps there's a reason other than my appeal?

  3. Yochanan -
    I think of smoke when I consider Talisker. A rich, delicate smoke. Peat is not integral to this, at least in my mind. Peat bombs are the Laphroaigs and Ardbegs.

    On your point about how Talisker is dry, it is true that there is a transition. It starts out sweet and eventually transitions to a drying sensation, though very subtle. That was an oversight on my part. But definitely it starts out sweet.

    While Talisker is not an Islay, it is very similar to that region home to smoke and peat flavors.

    Anonymous - I cannot review Edradour as it is not available where I live. I would suggest trying to sample it in a bar (where the bottle is pretty full!) and give it another go. I know all about trepidation in buying a bottle a second time when the first was terrible. Always remember that most liquor retailers will exchange a truly flawed bottle for something else.


  4. One of the great all round whiskys. If you had no choice but to drink only this, it would not be much of a hardship.

  5. Hey Jason;
    Great blog you have here. You and maltmadness are my main references before I hit the liquor store. I find your taste preferences are close to mine. Anyhow, I noticed coincidentally the same phenomenon this weekend. While in the Kaninaskis this weekend (just west of Calgary) I tried a dram of Ardbeg 10 as it was new to me. It was absolute rubbish, worst ever. I concluded that they must have had the bottle for a long time.
    Getting to my real point; I wonder if filling the top of the bottle with carbon dioxide might delay the oxidation and thus lengthen the life of a bottle. As it's heavier than air you could simply mix vinegar baking soda and let the resulting gas flow into the top of the bottle. What are your thoughts on that?

  6. John, I do not know if the carbon dioxide trick will work. I think it would be better to move the whisky to a smaller bottle, which means less air exposure.

    Some people add marbles to a bottle to increase the surface level, which again reduces the amount of air in a bottle. My preferebce is just to polish the bottle off within 6 months.

    Thanks for posting.

  7. I think I had a similar problem a couple weeks ago.

    I found a new local bar with a nice scotch selection. (good prices too!) And for the first time ever, I saw a bottle of Caol Ila 25. Well, the price wasn't absurd and the pours were generous. So I went for it! Caol Ila 12 is my favorite, so I really wanted to try this.

    Unfortunately, it was only okay... The smoke was subdued and there was a lot more oak. This was to be expected for such an older whiskey. However, there was just an odd taste on top of it all. I can't explain it very well, but it just seemed flat. Kind of like when you pour too much water into a dram.

    But anyway, after reading this review, it made me recall that the Caol Ila 25 was almost empty when I got it. And being one of their most expensive drams, I bet the bottle has been there a very long time.

    Oh well, lesson learned. Thanks for pointing this out to me.

  8. Eh Derek Mc, thanks for your comments. Caol Ila 25 should never taste flat! Something was definitely wrong.


  9. Talisker is the malt that really divides opinion. I have plenty of family in the Sutherland, Moray region and they just cannot stomach it. The difference a few hundred miles can make is startling. Talisker is a robust dram, not a recommended starting point. I'm not a huge fan but I can see myself growing in appreciation. I'm going to the distillery on my never ending tour later this year. Looking forward to trying more of their range soon.

  10. Jason, We're hold our last whiskey club event (until Fall) this weekend. Event theme is Desert Island Drams, which is one's choice for drinking forever to the exclusion of all others, crazy rare stuff aside. I'm offering Talisker 10Y, and its current version is stunningly good. It's different from any other malt and immediately recognizable: the character of its peppery peat (as opposed to heathery or wood fired), and its striking, hard-hitting arrival, big development and sustained finish. I could be happy with it always.

    1. Great choice, and I like how you and the club are excluding the rare, super expensive malts. Talisker is very unique and one of those rare malts that many of us never tire of!

    2. Jason, Our event featured these malts among our four members and one guest as things turned out: Talisker 10Y, Ardbeg Ten, Clynelish 14Y, Highland Park 18Y and Glendronach 15Y. All bottles had been previously shared this year. Everything showed well, and interestingly, one dram - the Clynelish - hit the group sweet spot that night, being the one we reached the most consistent group accord as something we would enjoy long-term for a desert island dram. JK

    3. Interesting. I think I would have to move amongst a chain of desert islands in order to ensure I could enjoy all those you listed.

  11. Hello Jason !
    Another Saturday evening and another Scotch ...
    I have bought Talisker 10 at my local store for $55, at least $10 less, then anywhere else.
    I agree with You about smoke. There is a lot of smoke, but completely different then Islay one.
    It is more delicate and maybe I am crazy, but it is mixed with meadow smell. Very interesting and unique. And again I smelled something distinctive, but I could not name it, until I read about lemon bread. You hit it again. Smell of skin of well done lemon bread.

    Another thing - no problem for me , this time - sweetness at beginning and drying sea salt at the end.I think, that I make progress, because I discovered it without Your help :)
    I would like to mention 2 more thing.

    First - weird sensation, when this whiskey instead going straight to my throat, wrapping around my tongue for a while, without forcing this movement by me( sorry, if I am not clear enough, but English is my second language).
    I have never had this feeling before with any other whiskey. It is almost like snake...
    Second - when I swirl this whiskey around glass it goes slowly down, but after few seconds, streams break and I see many drops and they stay "forever" on glass wall.
    Ok, no more confusions, just another sip...

    1. Marek! Your English is fine. I understand what you are saying. Talisker 10 is wonderful whisky friend that does indeed deliver flavors not like Islay (probably because Talisker is on the isle of Skye). Anyhow, glad you like it!

      I am currently enjoying a sherried Glenfarclas 17!


  12. Hey Jason,

    I have to pick between JW Green, Glenfiddich 15 & Talisker 10. Which one would you suggest? (Not considering the fact that JW Green is on the verge of becoming extinct & so it should be hoarded!)..


    1. JW Green and Glenfiddich 15 are similar and style (honeyed with sea spray), both very good. I would opt for Green because it just slightly edges out the Glenfiddich.

      The Talisker is a very different flavor profile: salty, brine, sea water, lemons and limes. If you, in general prefer this type of flavor, then take the Talisker.

      All three are excellent, but it comes down to the flavor profile you prefer most (the honeyed camp or the smoke and sea water camp).

  13. Great review, Jason.
    I guess that my main observation here, being a lover of Laphroaig QC as my favourite whisky, is that I think if you like Laphroaig you will like Talisker 10. It is quickly becoming my second favourite Scotch Whisky. Don't get me wrong, I am no blended whisky snob either, many fine blends out there which are much better than single malts. Especially malt or singl malt blends.
    Anyway, back to Talisker. I really like it's dryness. And it is not hugely peat and smoke like Laphroaig. To me, it's a bit like having a martini before dinner. I find it's an excellent aperatif, if you like. A bit briney and a bit salty to me, which a touch of sweetness at the end.
    It is certainly not a tame whisky, but I like that it doesn't have the hugeness of presence like Laphroaig, which I like to drink after my dinner. Many, many drinks after my dinner, I might add.
    The Talisker is definitely one of the most unique Single Malt Whiskies, IMO. It is the only one that really makes me think of the sea.

  14. Jason, From a couple of emails we had a while ago, you suggested to try this. Finally did and cracked the seal last month. First go was... err.. what's the big deal.. let it go for a week and a bit.... Oh yeah !! I have actually given away my Laga 16 (qtr full!) to a mate. Laph QC and Talisker are my fav Island whiskies.
    AL from OZ

    1. Talisker is a mysterious malt that at first seems insignificant, but as you return to it a couple of times you will discover one helluva lot of complexity and intrigue of flavors not found in any other malt.

      Glad the recommendation worked out for you!

  15. Been a few years since looking at this one again Jason.... But also looking at a comparison..... Ledaig 10. You've tried this one haven't you? Had and very much enjoyed it myself... Where would you sit with these two mate? They within 10 cents of each other... around the $80 at present.... Sorry but I like throwing these at you Jason Heh Heh...

    1. They are both great but I suppose the Talisker edges out the Ledaig. Talisker has more of a lemon note whereas Ledaig is more kippers.

    2. Hi Jason,
      Hope this post gets read. I have heard rumors (and it was also confirmed by a store rep at the LCBO and by one at the SAQ - whatever they are worth) that Talisker 10 is either being discontinued or will be in significantly reduced supply. At first I was brushing it off as nonsense, but then I saw the price of a bottle jump to $100 at the LCBO in the last two weeks, and the SAQ hasn't received any new stock in a year (they are gradually dwindling stock down accross the province). I was wondering if I should potentially be stocking up at a price of $79in Quebec ($100 at the LCBO) or if its all rubbish? Furthermore, Clynelish 14 yr old and HP 15 havent been available in Ontario or Quebec in over a year and neither LCBO or SAQ has any info as to when/if either is coming back. Would you have insider info perhaps??? ANy feedback would be much appreciated. Lupo

    3. I do know for a fact that you will never see Highland Park 15 years again on shelves anywhere in Canada. I have been in contact with Highland Park and they advised me in an email that they have discontinued Highland Park 15 years. Production ceased a few years ago, but some bottles continued to be in the 'supply chain' until sold off. What they did not say, but I suspect was that HP 15 was not a great seller and as it was priced close to HP18, the latter essentially cannibalized the formers sales.

      As for Talisker 10, I will talk to a friend in the know and post back here.


  16. Hi Jason,

    I had an opposite experience with this whisky. I drank it this summer in Rome in a bar on the river and quite enjoyed it. I purchased a bottle in Greece and finally opened it. I have it open for a week now and from 4-5 drams i had already, i can't find anything great about it. Quite mediocre, lightly to moderately peated, sour on the palate with meaty (grilled liver) kind of finish. There's also a quite unpleasant burn on the tongue which makes me think it's not aged properly or long enough. I don't know, maybe it's me, i lean more to straight bourbon than scotch to be honest (after >40 whiskies i've purchased and tried in two years). Cheers mate!