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Amazingly, I got this 1L bottle of the new Talisker expression for absolutely nothing. See, a friend of my girlfriend's was travelling in Europe, and I guess he owed her a favour - she asked him to find this bottle for me, and when he did, he gave it to her for free. Which she then gave to me (don't worry, I saved them both huge samples). I am a lucky, lucky man!
Talisker is the latest malt distillery to turn out a NAS expression. I know we all hate them, but unfortunately this is the way of the future. After telling us for decades that age matters when it comes to whisky (which is not necessarily true), now they are telling us that age doesn't matter at all (which is also not necessarily true). It seems the Scotch whisky industry has about as much integrity as a US Republican candidate (or a certain ex-mayor of Toronto). Anyway, this Talisker contains whisky that is matured in toasted and refill American oak casks; otherwise I don't know much else about it. Strangely, it's not mentioned at all on Diageo's www.malts.com website.
The colour is a medium gold, with orange highlights. Malty on the nose, with light caramel, soft vanilla, black pepper, strawberries and Juicy Fruit (!) Slightly sooty, with gentle peat. Ginger. Maltier - and more herbal - with water. I would call this "Talisker Lite", which is really an observation, not a complaint.
On the palate we have toffee, freshly cracked black pepper, some chili heat and some serious peat (no longer "Talisker Lite"!) Grassy and malty. Nicely sherried. Berries, milk chocolate, rum-raisin. Mint. Everything gets punched up a notch with water. Excellent - retains that Talisker character while adding some elegance.
The finish features a lot of caramel (a bit too much) with mossy peat, tobacco ash and leather. Now, we all moan and cry about the growing number of NAS scotches from our favourite distilleries, but somehow Talisker has managed to get it right, when so many others (I'm looking at you, Macallan) have gotten it wrong (maybe it's because they retain that unique Talisker ABV of 45.8%) While I would never say this is better than the 10 Year Old, at the right price point I would buy this quite frequently, and not feel like I was brainwashed by some Diageo marketing genius. Hopefully it makes it to the LCBO very soon.