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I was very excited to get my hands on a bottle of this Special Release 8 year old from Talisker as 2018 was, for me, a year of Talisker appreciation and this seemed the perfect fodder after my pleasing experiences with the 57 North and 18 year old. A cask strength, heavily charred, first fill bourbon matured Talisker at a youthful 8 years of age.
Bottles about 2/3 full and been open a month to the day.
Nose - Pepper . . . lots of black pepper and chili but with it is a huge waft of salt. I did not expect this level of saltiness here but it works. A little smoke, char and sea shore comes through and mingle with distinct tropical fruit notes. I'm reminded of pineapple, mango (that slightly woody note one gets) and cantaloupe melon. A little charred vanilla as well.
Taste - 'av it!' I mean this is big, really big and it's joyous. The salt gives your taste buds a slap, then the chili and pepper start to take over but just as you think it's getting out of hand it explodes with sweetness. The same fruit notes as above. I'm amazed at just how fruity this is: I have to conclude that they really knew what they were doing with the barrels here.
Finish - Salty and sweet with some liquorice starting to creep in. Some slightly dry and tannic oak as well. Med - long. And then there's more black pepper that seems to linger . . .
With water - More salt on the nose, if that were possible, but also more of the fruit notes; the bourbon casks really start to emerge. More fruity notes on the taste but that peppery/chili thing is going nowhere. I'll add that at first this really needed the water but I've drank this mainly neat tonight and it's been perfect - possibly the most I've enjoyed it yet. So fair to say that air has definitely helped this one settle down and open up.
This isn't as complex or sexy as the 18, nor is it as graceful as the 57 North. There's less of that toffee note I get usually with Talisker as well. Instead you are left with a raw, punchy whisky that simply assaults one's taste-buds in the best possible way; but the level of tropical fruits is such a pleasing counterbalance and stops this from being too one dimensional. I probably enjoy this more than the mark suggests but I think, on balance, it's fair as being so young it does lack some complexity. And if pepper and chili aren't your thing in whisky then run, run for the hills and don't look back.