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Talisker: Very sweet, and where is the pepper?

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Talisker: Very sweet, and where is the pepper?

Postby Admiral » Mon Nov 15, 2004 11:08 pm

I was on a tasting panel of four last night where 12 "west coast" malts were lined up for serious analysis, review, and scoring.

When we came to the Talisker OB 10yo, (which was purchased only the day before), we unanimously declared that this was
not the Talisker we knew.

It was extraordinarily sweet, with sherry possibly playing a role, but the toffee/caramel notes we all picked up led us to strongly suspect that spirit caramel was also responsible.

But most surprising of all was the complete absence of any heat. Where was the pepper? Where was the spice and fire?

Assessed on its own merits, it was actually a pretty nice dram, but it just wasn't the Talisker we were expecting. As someone else said, "If you went out and bought this bottle to enjoy the Talisker of old, you'd be very disappointed."

Interestingly, we followed the 10yo immediately with the Talisker Distillers Edition, 1990. This time, we all agreed that - behind the delicious amoroso - was the pepper & heat we were familiar with.

Has anyone else noticed this change in Talisker? Did something happen at the distillery in 1993 or 1994 where they suddenly had an overabundant supply of sherry casks? Have Diageo suddenly decided in 2004 that Talisker needs caramel to make it sweeter and darker?

Cheers,
Admiral
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Postby bamber » Mon Nov 15, 2004 11:46 pm

JM criticised the Talisker 10YO, with regards the amount of caramel in it spoiling the finish.

I thought the change may be due to me favouring Islays more and more of late. Certainly the 18YO brought back happy memories and contrary to the blurb on the bottle was in some ways wilder than the 10YO.
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Postby Lawrence » Mon Nov 15, 2004 11:47 pm

Admiral I've not tasted a Talisker for a few months so I'm not going to comment on it. However I have had the Cragganmore and it has changed and for the better. The standard Cragganmore now has more smoke and a larger flavour profile, in the past it was a bit thin and perhaps a little sour, IMHO.

Also I've noticed a change for the better in the Oban, I think the distilleries are continually playing with the 'vattings'. We all know that the product of a distillery is not the same day after day after day, let alone what the influence the cask has on the product.
There are too many variables and that is why we are experiencing 'swings' in the product.

I think we're becoming more attuned to the subtle changes in the 'vattings' over time. I don't think that it should be a shock that a lot of people have noticed a change in Laphroaig, after all it was widely distributed, for a long time and has a large flavour profile so any changes would be easier to spot. Also the whisky writers have pointed this out to us. What do you think?

I may have a different theory tomorrow when my first dram after 30 days is a Laphroaig, there's something I noticed in the summer but am going to try again tomorrow. I'll let you know.
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Postby Admiral » Mon Nov 15, 2004 11:56 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with you Lawrence that there are subtle swings, and you are right - we the consumers are becoming more atuned to identifying them.

But this change in the Talisker is not subtle.

More to the point - the signature feature of Talisker, the peppery, firey, explosive heat has gone missing! Why tinker with the very characteristic that the malt is famous for?!

Cheers,
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Postby Lawrence » Tue Nov 16, 2004 2:41 am

Following Bamber's lead I looked in Jim Murray's Whiskey Bible 2004 and he writes the following comments in the review;

'worrying shades of toffee arrive early on, the big peat explosion muffled, dulled by the caramel"

'but someone has gone nuts with the caramel machine here and done their best to flatten those uniquely massive notes that set this distillery aprat.'

Looks like somebody broke Talisker, maybe they should fix it.
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Postby islayjunkie » Tue Nov 16, 2004 6:54 am

I agree, Talisker has changed a bit. I was never a big Talisker drinker but have notice a change between the 2 or more older vintages I tried in the 90's and the present.

My favorite substitute for Talisker is Brora Sutherland Clynelish 14yo... very nice balance between peat, spice, salt and affordable.

Although not as peaty as old Talsisker it is close. Clynelish 14yo has the same lingering finish but with a mild rounded pear and raisin sweetness (no sherry). The sea salt balances the sweet nicely. It's also fairly smooth. I was able to convince a couple guests new to whisky to try it and they loved it after recoiling from Ardbeg 10yo.

Clynelish 14yo is good beginner whisky I think which makes it special like Lagavulin. Some will argue that Lagavulin is not for the faint or persons new to whisky however it was one of the first early whiskys I tasted that made me a whisky junkie...
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Postby bamber » Tue Nov 16, 2004 10:24 am

I suppose the only question for Talisker's owners is: Does it sell more ? Talisker is a well known whisky from a wonderful location. Perhaps toning it down (ruining it) makes it more accessible to a wider audience. What a shame, I've always kept a bottle open out of habit, but I probably wont buy another for some time yet (2 inches left in current one).
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Postby Lawrence » Tue Nov 16, 2004 5:17 pm

I checked through some of my Classic Malts promotional material from years ago and in the Talisker description there are references to pepper etc (the famed lava of the Cullins).

The most recent Classic Malts make no mention of the famous Talisker pepper but refer to 'sea aroma with smokiness. Lingering peaty taste.'

Do you think they've deliberately 'dumbed' it down for broader appeal?
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Postby Admiral » Tue Nov 16, 2004 11:26 pm

The taste profile has changed so dramatically that I don't believe it is an accident or a seasonal fluctuation.

I think you're right, Lawrence....they're aiming for broader appeal, and they were prepared to sacrifice a beauty in the process.

Also, it's worth noting that this change in the 10yo seems to have coincided with quite a number of other Taliskers being released onto the market. If one wants to taste the famed Talisker of old, you'll need to buy an expensive, older release. Funny that Diageo should suddenly release some older bottlings after years and years of just the 10yo! :) :wink:

Cheers,
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Postby hpulley » Wed Nov 17, 2004 1:45 am

islayjunkie wrote:My favorite substitute for Talisker is Brora Sutherland Clynelish 14yo... very nice balance between peat, spice, salt and affordable.

Although not as peaty as old Talsisker it is close. Clynelish 14yo has the same lingering finish but with a mild rounded pear and raisin sweetness (no sherry). The sea salt balances the sweet nicely. It's also fairly smooth. I was able to convince a couple guests new to whisky to try it and they loved it after recoiling from Ardbeg 10yo.


On this recommendation I just grabbed a bottle of 14yo Clynelish OB and it is wonderful stuff! Just the first dram from the bottle so I expect it will open up even more but it is very nice stuff. I'd never had an OB Clynelish until now, just IBs so I wasn't sure about this one but it is great stuff! Bottled at 46% but I'm not sure about chill filtration or colouring. It is much better than the 43% 10yo Hedges & Butler '89 Clynelish I am HTHing with it tonight, much nicer nose and much spicier finish. Not sure I would have compared it to Talisker but now that you mention it, this just might be a north highland equivalent.

BTW, calling it Brora Sutherland Clynelish might be a bit misleading. It is distilled at Clynelish which is located in Brora, Sutherland. Some might think it is a Brora, but it is not (an admittedly confusing history of the twin distilleries where the two names are used interchangably depending on the year of distillation).

Harry
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Postby Lawrence » Wed Nov 17, 2004 1:59 am

Did you know that the 'new' still house at Clynelish is a duplicate of the still house at Caol Ila? Also apparently when Caol Ila was being refurbished/rebuilt they made up the production by producing a peated malt at Clynelish.

The Club will be tasting the Clynelish OB 14 and the Murray McDavid Mission Clynelish 1972 30 year old on Sunday and I've been doing some reading.

for some history; http://www.discovering-distilleries.com

Although they've neatly avoided the whole highland clearances connection.
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Postby hpulley » Wed Nov 17, 2004 2:07 am

Yes, I'd heard about the copies of Caol Ila stills. Fascinating and it makes me want to try a lightly or unpeated Caol Ila. The 10yo from Hedges & Butler has a touch of a Caol Ila nose to it when been aired out for a good while. Both samples really develop over time, though eventually they die down. Later on the 10yo was a close second rather than a distant one. BTW, for those wanting the 14yo Clynelish, like the recent Caol Ila and Lagavulin OBs it is off the database so get it while you can and you may have to physically locate a bottle as they seem to have trouble doing store-store transfers without the database...

Cadenheads has some wonderful Clynelishes as well. Let me know about the '72 Mission as the LCBO has a few bottles left but for that price I'd prefer an opinion first!

To get back somewhat to Talisker and island whiskies, the Clynelish packaging is REALLY plugging the coastal character so they are obviously trying to tap into the market for maritime malts.

I'll be trying the 20yo Talisker shortly which I hear is very good and a return to old form.

Harry
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Postby Lawrence » Wed Nov 17, 2004 2:20 am

Jim Murray rates it a 92 and I tasted it before, it really is very nice. I'll let you know how it fares with the Club. I have a SMWS Talisker that I've not opened yet, I'm curious to see how it compares.
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Postby Admiral » Wed Nov 17, 2004 2:51 am

Whilst on Clynelish, I can also recommend the 1990 Gordon & MacPhail bottling.

This is an absolute beauty.....velvety smooth, a touch of both peat and salt, yet the malt sits nicely amongst it all. Overall, very flavoursome and a great example of a coastal malt.

Worth tracking down if you can find it anywhere.

Cheers,
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Postby islayjunkie » Wed Nov 17, 2004 7:36 am

hpulley wrote:BTW, calling it Brora Sutherland Clynelish might be a bit misleading. It is distilled at Clynelish which is located in Brora, Sutherland. Some might think it is a Brora, but it is not (an admittedly confusing history of the twin distilleries where the two names are used interchangably depending on the year of distillation)....

I'll be trying the 20yo Talisker shortly which I hear is very good and a return to old form.

Harry


Thanks Harry, I just made the connection... I'm still a novice when it comes to history and location however, I'm learning quickly.

Where do you recommend purchasing Talisker 20yo? I have a couple friends in Canada and Christmas is around the corner :D

Regards,
Greg
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Postby bamber » Wed Nov 17, 2004 10:05 am

I finished of my bottle of 10YO last night and was left with the feeling that I'd eaten a bag of sweets. If only adding caramel was not permitted.
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Postby hpulley » Wed Nov 17, 2004 12:19 pm

The LCBO has some Talisker 20yo but I'm not sure how much. Their database is SNAFU right now so many recent products are on shelves but not showing up in inventory. The big stores in Toronto probably have some -- sorry I can't be more specifid.

Harry
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Nov 17, 2004 10:11 pm

Admiral,

To come back to your comment on Talisker at older ages. I do have different expirences with Talisker at older ages, but those where expressions from Cadenhead.

The Distillery editions are usually less peppery, but that's because of the mixture and balance from the type casks they use. I mean I like the DB at older ages, but compare them with a Cadenhead for example, well that's a different story.

Cheers,

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Postby Lawrence » Fri Nov 26, 2004 4:42 am

Admiral I had my first real opportunity to try the OB Talisker tonight for the first time in a few years. Keeping your comments in mind I had two drams and you are correct, it is a 'kindler, gentler' Talisker.

The Talisker 18 is supposed to arrive here for the Christmas season and I'll take the opportunity to see how it has stood the test of time.

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Postby Shigga » Sat Dec 11, 2004 5:32 pm

Honestly, we should form a petition to bring the "old" Talisker back... complete with the pepper in the palate... it used to be one of the most demanding spirits to the tasting tongue, and now it seems to be mainstreamed. What a pity.
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Postby PoppaMitch » Sat Dec 11, 2004 6:11 pm

Lawrence wrote:I have a SMWS Talisker that I've not opened yet, I'm curious to see how it compares.


Don't wait another day! The SMWS bottling (14.11) is just spectacular. It's got great depth of flavour and is probably closer to what you'd expect from a Talisker, as opposed to the newer 10 yo OB's.
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Why mess with perfection?

Postby wpt » Wed Jan 12, 2005 6:42 am

I have to concur with the assessment that the 10yr recipe is being manipulated.

I found a 10yr bottle bought a few years back and compared with a recent purchase.

The peppery fire has definitely been purposely reduced and replaced with a toffee.

The newer recipe is actually quite nice but can't replace the original.

Too bad they just didn't keep the original recipe and then create a new brand release instead.

i imagine somewhere there must be a hoard of the original recipe 10yr.
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Postby ronnie » Wed Jan 12, 2005 4:35 pm

Hmm, has this got anything to do with the changing of the talisker box colour?
Before it was black, but recently I noticed that the boxes - as well as the paperseal around the cork (don't know how you would say it in English) - is some kind of dark blue. Most spiritstores I've lately been in here (in Helsinki, Finland) seem to have the new blue box, both some still have both in stock. Maybe need to stock up with one or two black ones if this would be the case..

Yeah, first post here! :)
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Last edited by ronnie on Fri Jan 14, 2005 4:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby akallio » Wed Jan 12, 2005 7:35 pm

Where in Helsinki you can still find the original black box version?
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Postby akallio » Fri Jan 14, 2005 8:55 am

Anyone knows if the black+grey+brown box versions really are the proper (peppery) stuff?

When the change happened? Less than year ago?

I guess I have to find out it myself... I have the blue box version (which didn't impress me THAT much) and I managed to reserve the second to last black box one in Helsinki... :)

ronnie: Thanks for the tip!
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Postby ronnie » Fri Jan 14, 2005 11:00 am

At least in Finland the box colour change was about 3 weeks ago, christmas 2004. Need to look for bottling dates.

akallio: no prob.
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Postby Ash » Fri Jan 14, 2005 11:40 am

akallio wrote:Anyone knows if the black+grey+brown box versions really are the proper (peppery) stuff?

When the change happened? Less than year ago?

I guess I have to find out it myself... I have the blue box version (which didn't impress me THAT much) and I managed to reserve the second to last black box one in Helsinki... :)

ronnie: Thanks for the tip!


No, I have some black box stuff and its the dumbed down Talisker rather than the olde peppery stuff.
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Postby lucabeer » Fri Jan 14, 2005 3:41 pm

The good stuff was in a clear box, with the map of Skye all over it.

http://www.whisky-distilleries.info/Ima ... ker-10.jpg


I still have one bottle of it at home, intact. I plan to open it soon!
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Postby ronnie » Fri Jan 14, 2005 4:49 pm

So, if I understand this correctly, there has quite recently been at least 4 different talisker boxes around.. :?:

1. Clear box with Skye map
2. Dark grey box with Skye map
3. Entirely black box (Skye map with "buckles")
4. Entirely dark blue box (Skye map with "buckles")

(Where boxes 1 and 2 look the same except for the some colour differences in the background and 3 resp. 4 are likewise related, just the colour has changed.)

Found some older threads here where the talisker changes (old vs. new) had already been discussed, sorry, should have made a search through older postings first.. :oops:

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Postby hpulley » Fri Jan 14, 2005 4:52 pm

The dark grey boxed Talisker 10yo was also good. I have not yet sampled the new blue boxed Talisker 10yo (or 18yo).

Harry
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Postby Lawrence » Fri Jan 14, 2005 8:22 pm

Is it likely that Diageo are paving the way for a CS Talisker? Then there would be a real difference between the two? Perhaps along with Lagavulin a whole line up of CS Classic Malts? That would be interesting.
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Postby hpulley » Fri Jan 14, 2005 8:31 pm

Cask Strength Classics! Sounds good. I'll even let Diageo use the name ;)

Harry
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Postby Lawrence » Fri Jan 14, 2005 8:40 pm

I will too! :D
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Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Jan 14, 2005 8:54 pm

Well count me in too guys :D (ofcourse unchill filtered and uncolored :lol: )
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Postby Lawrence » Fri Jan 14, 2005 8:56 pm

Right! Just stick it in the bottle, don't monkey with it and we'll be happy.
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