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I wrote these tasting notes without knowing exactly what I was drinking but I inferred whence came the aforementioned sample from the 45.8% ABV written on the label. That oddly specific number is a dead giveaway of the malt's provenance: Talisker. So while this wasn't a total blind tasting, I didn't know which Talisker expression it was. I was fairly certain I'd enjoy it, because I've never met a Talisker I didn't appreciate.
- Nose (undiluted): the Talisker peat and smoke are there, but it is not the lead player in this orchestra. Lots of fruitiness right up front. Plums, cherries, red licorice, balsamic vinegar, and a very slight menthol note.
- Palate (undiluted): very soft arrival, more red fruit, developing to dry peat smoke (think burning leaves), and a little minerality.
- Finish: medium length, dry smoke at first, with a cherry Halls (cough lozenge) flavour lingering. It's more enjoyable than it sounds.
With water added, there's a floral or herbal note that pops up, fresh thyme maybe. A bit of honey. The peat smoke is still there with water, but the fruitiness changes. It tastes more like pears, and maybe a touch of orange. With water, the chalky minerality that defines Talisker for me is more evident. I prefer this with water. I have to admit, the 10 Year Old Talisker is more my style. Perhaps I'm curmudgeonly, but I prefer my Talisker with less fruitiness and more pepper, brine, smoke, and wet slate.
The fruitiness of the nose and taste lead me to guess this was a wine-finished Talisker; Distillers Edition or maybe Port Ruighe. My friend informed me I was wrong on both counts. The sample was from a bottle only available, insofar as I know, in Duty Free shops. So what did I expect from a whisky called "Dark Storm"? Well, I would have thought Dark Storm implied Cask Strength whisky, deep fruit notes throughout, a crescendo of brine, a backhanded slap of peat smoke, a real whirlwind of flavours fighting for dominance. But herein lies the rub: I found this whisky milder and tamer than the standard Talisker 10 Year Old. Don't get me wrong: Dark Storm is a pleasurable sipper but I would not have named it "Dark Storm". It's more akin to an ocean-side sunset. I guess that name doesn't sell as bold a tale.
The name Dark Storm projects an image of Jack Sparrow drinking his fill (since the rum is always gone), possibly using some of the whisky as a disinfectant in a pinch (if it were bottled at Cask Strength), all while sailing the Black Pearl through a hurricane. The flavour profile delivers a different, albeit satisfying, experience. Nevertheless, I'd advise you to try before you buy.
I believe my friend paid $90 for a 1 litre bottle. I'd probably pull the trigger at that price.
A fair summary. From the sample I tried from a friends bottle I too prefer the standard 10. Give me the pepper and brine any day, I found this too subdued for my liking considering it's supposed to be aged in heavily charred casks. Interesting how much fruit you picked up in this too - the bottle I sampled just seemed a little flat and lacking.
@OdysseusUnbound as you said so eloquently "perception is a funny thing" this came after my friend mention it was like a Talisker playing in a Lagavulin cover band, perhaps the drams had caught up at that point.