Over the past 18 months, Talisker has been shaking things up with numerous new releases. Long admired for its 10, 18, 25 and 57 North variants, the only distillery on Skye spent many a year without putting anything new out to market.
As such, seeing the swathe of new whiskies can be a bit overwhelming, as can remembering what each bottling is like.
The latest to join the line-up is the Skye. Meant as a main market release to fit alongside the 10-year old in price point (though, some retailers seem to be selling it higher) and focused on off-trade sales push, Skye joins Storm, Dark Storm (Travel Retail exclusive) and Port Ruighe as the other NAS whisky in the bunch.
Skye has been made from a combination of whiskies matured in refill, American oak ex-bourbon and freshly charred casks to bring out a lot more vanilla and spice than would traditionally be found. In contrast, Storm is the more heavily peated cousin, and Port Ruighe is finished in port pipes. The idea of each variant in the line-up is to highlight a different aspect of the classic Talisker character, according to whisky blender Dr Craig Wilson and head of whisky outreach Dr Nick Morgan, who I recently had the chance to sit down with to further discuss the release.
According to Craig: “I’ve heard the word ‘accessible’ used for this one. But I think there is still a great deal of complexity, pepperiness and richness to this. You do get American oak notes – vanilla, etc – as well. But you also can detect lighter, more citrussy notes as it develops, and you do get classic Talisker notes coming through.”
But my main question had to be: with this coming into the line-up to sit alongside the 10-year old, could this mean the end of that beloved single malt?
According to Nick, there are no plans to do that at this time. He told me: “Talisker 10 is a victim of its own success and have to be careful with how we allocate it. But we have been investing in Talisker over the past 15 years more than any other brand in the Diageo porfolio, except maybe The Singleton now.”
Hopefully, this investment is a good sign for the future of the older set in the Talisker range. The 10-year old has long been a top malt of mine, and I’d be very disappointed to see it go.
But, that being said: how does Skye hold up? And what is it like in comparison to the others? I tried them all side by side, along with a sample of new make spirit, and here’s what I thought in the order I tried them.
Talisker New Make Spirit:
(n): Much softer than other peated new make spirits – nice and rich; bit of sweet sugar, heather and some gentle fruits.
(p): Initial sweet, almost saccharine note before a nice hit of black pepper.
In conclusion: I forgot how sweet the NMS actually is from Talisker so in some ways, the natural sweetness of this echoes the NMS.
(n): Some lighter fruits, strawberry Starburst and lemon peel; vanilla, Crunchie bars, smoke is very hard to detect at first – very appealing but not quite as “Talisker” as you’d think.
(p): Chocolatey, earthy, lots of pepper at the front of the palate – thicker, then red fruits, a nice dryness at the back. Lovely dried cranberries and raspberries as well. Gets smokier as it airs out and leaves a bigger smokier kick on the palate.
(n): Much saltier and more of a maritime note than Skye; less red fruits and sharper on the nose; definitely much more smoke and citrus.
(p): More buttery texture and much drier/grassier at the back of the palate – lots of heat.
(n): More buttery again and then a lovely warmth and overall sweetness – honey & cream, hay. Great nose that continuously reveals more.
(p): Lots more chocolate, tiny bit of a dry sulphury note akin to struck matches, shortbread and baking spices.
In Conclusion: Overall, on the nose (after 15 minutes of airing) Skye holds its own but is fresher and sweeter. Storm has a nice maritime hit whereas Port Ruighe is more buttery and winey. Having tasted them side by side, I think Skye fits in nicely as something a bit different for the range. It feels less intensely peaty which may not appeal to long-time Talisker lovers, but may do to those new to the category. Priced in at parity to the 10-year old, I think Skye really has something to offer, but I’m surprised to see most places selling it for the same price as Storm. Price wise, I’d definitely go for the 10-year old (at around £33) over them all but each does give something a wee bit different.