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More on Talisker 10YO's dumbing down

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More on Talisker 10YO's dumbing down

Postby bamber » Tue Apr 19, 2005 9:00 am

Thought this was interesting. There's a claim that Talisker 10YO's altered flavour profile is temporary and it will return to it's former self soon.

http://www.maltmadness.com/mm13a.html#13-15

Has anyone bought the latest one in the blue box ?
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Apr 19, 2005 8:31 pm

From the above cited:

I talked to Nick Morgan on Islay last year about the changed profile of Talisker 10 and he told me the profile had changed temporarily as they did not have sufficient top quality casks of 10yo at hand so were using older casks to produce the best product possible at the time. He also told me the flavour profile would soon return to normal.

This fits very neatly with my inference that this is a widespread problem with very popular malts--they simply weren't making that much ten to twenty years ago. Now everyone's going flat out, so the next big problem will be a glut in about five or ten years. There will be tough times for marginal distilleries, and some will close. Others will be forced to cut production and make layoffs. In twenty or twenty-five years, we'll be back where we are now.

The glut could be avoided if the emerging Asian markets take off, but that would bring another set of problems. You can't win! Enjoy what you have while you have it.
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Postby Admiral » Tue Apr 19, 2005 10:45 pm

Call me a persistent pain in the neck, but I don't buy it. :wink:

The change in flavour profile of the latest Taliskers doesn't seem to equate to "quality of casks".

We all know that - using an Islay malt like Caol Ila, example - a peaty whisky will remain a peaty whisky......whether you put it in a fresh cask, an old cask, a good cask, a bad cask, a sherry cask or a bourbon cask. THe peat was infused into the malt and sometimes also present in the water. Filling that peaty whisky into whatever type of wood will not remove the peat. Maybe over 15-20 years or greater, the peat might take more of a back seat, but in a 10yo like Talisker, the peat should hold its ground.

Now I grant you that the type and quality of cask will affect things such as sweetness, dryness, astringency, vanillin extraction, and the whisky's ability to take in the environment. But at its root, it all starts with the base new make spirit.

The peat, spice and pepper that has disappeared from Talisker are features that - IMHO - come chiefly from the new make spirit. They would be due to things like the amount of peat used in the malt, the length of time the stills are run for, the temperature that the stills are run at (affects things like reflux, etc), the length of the middle cut, and so on and so forth.

I am more than happy to accept that the Talisker Distillery made some changes to these aspects of their production 10 or so years ago. But to blame it on the wood seems a little far fetched, IMHO.

Cheers,
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Postby Deactivated Member » Tue Apr 19, 2005 11:00 pm

Admiral, I think you misread the comment. You are reading "they did not have sufficient top quality casks of 10yo at hand" and inferring that they are saying that lesser quality casks were used. Read the rest of the sentence: "--so were using older casks to produce the best product possible at the time." They are not pointing to quality of casks at all, but age of casks. Whether that's valid or not is another issue--the 18 tastes pretty good to me. But I haven't even tried the 10 in a while, so I can't comment. I will say that if they'd really wanted to maintain the peppery profile, they might have put younger casks into the vatting and dropped the age statement, but that presents a huge marketing problem. And as foolish as it might seem to us to compromise taste for marketing reasons, the fact is that we don't have to sell the stuff.
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Postby Admiral » Wed Apr 20, 2005 12:46 am

I don't think it makes any difference, Mr T.

Okay, so the casks were older - in other words, some of the whisky in the vatting is greater than 10 years old. From my argument's perspective, what difference does that make? I'm still suggesting that the base spirit changed.

Time will tell.....if a peppery 10yo returns to the market in a few years, then we'll know it was a temporary glitch, forced upon the distillery due to a number of factors. If not, we'll know it was a deliberate decision to change the profile and dumb whisky down to appeal to the masses.

Cheers,
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Apr 20, 2005 2:02 am

I'm only responding to the argument as you presented it. But your base premise, that the spirit has changed, is probably correct. But I have a hard time believing that they intentionally changed a very popular (and famously distinctive) malt in order to make it more popular. That strikes me as the knee-jerk cynic's response. I have to think that there have been some factors that have been in some way beyond their control. As you say, time will tell.
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Postby Lord_Pfaffin » Wed Apr 20, 2005 3:06 am

Having only tasted the new Tali 10, i can say that i was satisfied with the taste and wouldn't hesitate to buy another. There is still some pepperiness, although it left me with the impression that more may be an asset. It is still a whisky that makes a big statement in it's flavor but i am not intirely convinced that this newer expression's sales will fair any better than the older.
We all remember the about-face Coke made after introducing, "New-Coke". Not betting that the truth will surface with this one no matter what the outcome.
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Postby Lawrence » Wed Apr 20, 2005 7:27 am

Well, something's happened and I have asked the question (as have others), has the whole Classic Malts range has changed? Diageo deny this and some have made the arguement that is all due to our palates being subjected to stronger malts and thus the malts we taste now are less 'aggressive'.

Either way it's an interesting subject.
Last edited by Lawrence on Wed Apr 20, 2005 4:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby bamber » Wed Apr 20, 2005 12:32 pm

I think you make a goog point there Admiral - especially given who Nick Morgan was speaking to at the time. I guess we have to ask ourselves just how popular was Talisker 10 years ago ? I'm sure whisky enthusiasts loved it but were most people reaching for the Glenlivet or Glenfiddich at that time ?

On a different not, can anyone hazard a guess as to what actually made Talisker 10YO so peppery in the past, because it is rather different to what one normally associates with peat ?
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Postby bamber » Wed Apr 20, 2005 12:32 pm

I think you make a good point there Admiral - especially given who Nick Morgan was speaking to at the time. I guess we have to ask ourselves just how popular was Talisker 10 years ago ? I'm sure whisky enthusiasts loved it but were most people reaching for the Glenlivet or Glenfiddich at that time ?

On a different not, can anyone hazard a guess as to what actually made Talisker 10YO so peppery in the past, because it is rather different to what one normally associates with peat ?
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Postby Admiral » Fri Apr 22, 2005 6:39 am

I'm not convinced that the hot, peppery spice was necessarily due to the peat.

Afterall, think of the peat monsters from Islay - terms like hot or peppery are rarely used to describe their characteristics.

Rather, I suspect it is a unique combination of the local water, and undeniably the shape of the stills, and the nature in which they are run, (i.e. duration of distillation, the middle cut, the influence of the foreshots & feints). Obviously, cask selection must also have played a healthy role, but for that peppery feature to be there so consistently for so long, it must have been inherent in the new make spirit.

Cheers,
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Postby Lord_Pfaffin » Fri Apr 22, 2005 7:08 am

I kinda find it hard to believe that when the single malt is maybe 2% of the total output, that not enough "top quality casks" could be found unless there was some kind of very profound and predetermined alteration. Maybe a key ingridient-s changed or became unavailable?
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Postby Lawrence » Fri Apr 22, 2005 4:34 pm

Maybe the change in flavour profile is a deliberate move towards a less agressive malt?

The Classic Malts have changed since introduction and are not what they used to be IMHO. Other distillers have changed the flavour profile of their malts for the better, just look at Aberlour 10 and Glenfarclas 105, they are both quite different from 10 years ago and are very much better today. Is it not possible that the owners of the CM thought that the flavour profiles were a bit too distinctive and brought them closer to the 'mainstream'?
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Postby bond » Sat Apr 23, 2005 10:01 am

In what might shame the powers-that-be at Talisker, i was taking a lady thru what I felt was a good introduction to various kinds of single malt whisky.

She seemed to have a preference for the "heavier" whiskies and refused her 2nd dram of Talisker as she found it too sweet! In fact I was politely chastised for even suggesting that it had a robust palate!

IMHO, popular or not, Talisker will certainly lose its unique character. I recollect certain evenings when I longed for a Talisker and its peperry finish.

Now, I do not even know where to place it on the spectrum.
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Postby Crispy Critter » Sun Apr 24, 2005 2:59 am

The new 18yo OB has some of the pepper in the attack, while its finish to me reminds me of an old, mellowed Islay. It might be a better choice than the current 10, but I'll have to try the new "blue-box" 10 before I can say for sure.

I currently have an unopened older bottle of Talisker 10 (in the stone-colored box), so a head-to-head-to-head vs. the new 10 and the 18 might be in order...
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Apr 25, 2005 6:17 am

CC, I think we have determined that the change in Talisker predates the change in packaging, so your HTH may not prove anything. Depends how old the older bottle is, of course.

Re the source of pepper flavor, I have tasted strong pepperiness in only one other malt--Signatory's Straight From The Cask 1979 Port Ellen Burgundy finish. It's my guess that the pepper is a synergistic effect involving phenols and wood. It would be interesting to know what Talisker's wood regime is and whether it has changed in the past decade or so, either in specific barrels used, or in those chosen for the 10yo.

Working my way through Peat Smoke & Spirit, I was struck by this yesterday:

The idea that a particular distillery produces whisky of a single, distinctive and unchanging flavour is beginning to look dated.

Jeffords is talking about Bruichladdich (p. 182), and in particular that distillery's intent to make a variety of spirits, such as Port Charlotte and Octomore. But the statement struck me as being true on another level--all malts change over time, for a seemingly infinite number of reasons. Some surely are a matter of intent, some of expedience, and some of accident. Whatever the case at Talisker, I think our discussion of the matter should be tempered by the knowledge that it is virtually impossible to produce the exact same malt year in and year out, and by the likelihood that, the more distinctive the malt, the more noticeable any change will be.
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Postby hpulley » Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:14 am

This isn't new. Springbank has been putting out various expressions for a while, as has Tobermory/Ledaig. Look at Ireland where there are only a few distilleries left, yet each still produces expressions of some of the many distilleries which used to exist.

Caol Ila has for some time made a different recipe for blenders than it does for its own use.

It used to be that distilleries put out different expressions mostly by accident but now with computer-control it may be a more constant product where the different expressions are intentional, not serendipity.

Harry
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Postby andrewfenton » Mon Apr 25, 2005 2:25 pm

Another peppery whisky is the Chieftain's Caol Ila 13yr Medoc finish. Perhaps it's not a coincidence both are medium peated (20-25ppm) and medium strength (46 and 50%)? Anything more and pepperiness seems to give way to sheer strength, anything less and there isn't that "zing" that tickles your tastebuds.
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Postby Mr Fjeld » Mon Apr 25, 2005 4:58 pm

I'm just wandering - could the peppery character be an effect of the tannins of the cask?

Skål!
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Postby Tom » Mon Apr 25, 2005 5:32 pm

andrewfenton wrote:Another peppery whisky is the Chieftain's Caol Ila 13yr Medoc finish. Perhaps it's not a coincidence both are medium peated (20-25ppm) and medium strength (46 and 50%)? Anything more and pepperiness seems to give way to sheer strength, anything less and there isn't that "zing" that tickles your tastebuds.

I tend to disagree, look at Ardbeg Uigaedail
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Postby Deactivated Member » Mon Apr 25, 2005 6:12 pm

hpulley wrote:This isn't new. Springbank has been putting out various expressions for a while, as has Tobermory/Ledaig. Look at Ireland where there are only a few distilleries left, yet each still produces expressions of some of the many distilleries which used to exist.


True, Harry, but the issue here is change in a single expression, and in fact the flagship expression. What I'm wondering is whether in fact this is simply unavoidable, the more so when dealing with relatively heavily peated drams. Lagavulin, Laphroaig, and Talisker have all been the targets of such complaints here. Their current popularity and the cyclical nature of the business have left them particularly vulnerable. Will we all inevitably be lamenting changes in Ardbeg in a few years' time?

Lord Pfaffin said, "I kinda find it hard to believe that when the single malt is maybe 2% of the total output, that not enough 'top quality casks' could be found unless there was some kind of very profound and predetermined alteration." If one considers that the single malt bottling represents cherry-picked casks with a very specific flavor profile, one might not find it so hard to believe. If a distillery's single malt output changes from 2% to 3%, that represents a 50% increase in the proportion of casks used. A rise to 4 or 5% could be earth-shaking. Consider also that a specific vatting is comprises a very specific wood regime, and that there may be plenty of good bourbon casks, for example, in the warehouse, but a shortage of first-fill sherry casks; replacing even a small portion of those with second-fill sherry casks could produce a noticeable change in the profile. It would have taken a visionary to see fifteen years ago how radically the business would change, and to have planned accordingly. Imagine your favorite musical artist recording a group of songs for release in ten or fifteen years, trying to guess what will be fashionable that far down the road.
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Postby hpulley » Mon Apr 25, 2005 6:17 pm

Lagavulin doesn't send much (any) to blenders these days so with them it isn't just 4-5%.

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Postby andrewfenton » Mon Apr 25, 2005 10:13 pm

Hrrm, I wouldn't really call Uigedail peppery as such, although it's definitely quite "textured" in a way (as are many non-woody sherried whiskies, like Aberlour).

Probably we're using the words to mean completely different things anyway :-))
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Postby Admiral » Tue Apr 26, 2005 2:32 pm

Perhaps it's not a coincidence both are medium peated (20-25ppm)


Since when was Talisker peated to those kind of levels? I understood the peating at Talisker to be much, much lower, i.e. in the 4 to 8 ppm range?

Cheers,
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Postby andrewfenton » Tue Apr 26, 2005 2:45 pm

Hrrm, can't pin down where I heard that. I remember hearing from elsewhere it used to be even higher (around 40ppm) until the early 80s - they shared the same maltings as Brora before then.
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Postby patrick dicaprio » Tue Apr 26, 2005 5:00 pm

MrTattieHeid wrote:From the above cited:

I talked to Nick Morgan on Islay last year about the changed profile of Talisker 10 and he told me the profile had changed temporarily as they did not have sufficient top quality casks of 10yo at hand so were using older casks to produce the best product possible at the time. He also told me the flavour profile would soon return to normal.

This fits very neatly with my inference that this is a widespread problem with very popular malts--they simply weren't making that much ten to twenty years ago. Now everyone's going flat out, so the next big problem will be a glut in about five or ten years. There will be tough times for marginal distilleries, and some will close. Others will be forced to cut production and make layoffs. In twenty or twenty-five years, we'll be back where we are now.

The glut could be avoided if the emerging Asian markets take off, but that would bring another set of problems. You can't win! Enjoy what you have while you have it.


i recently tasted some Talisker 10 and spoke to the talisker rep about this at a whisky tasting. They denied knowledge of any difference. i felt that there was a slight noticeable difference but it wasnt tremendous.

Pat
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Postby Lawrence » Wed Apr 27, 2005 5:55 pm

The tasting notes for all the Classic Malts have changed, check out

http://www.maltmadness.com/mm13.html#13-10
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Apr 27, 2005 7:26 pm

That's interesting, Lawrence, but I don't put much faith in tasting-note blurbs, anyway. I suspect they were changed more to satisfy the marketing department's desire to fit certain words and phrases in than to reflect actual change in the flavor profile. Whether the flavor profile coincidentally changed to suit the marketing department, also, is another matter. I'd still prefer to believe that these malts have changed for more complex reasons than that Diageo intentionally dumbed them down, an explanation that doesn't entirely make sense to me. But I don't know.

Incidentally, the regions represented by the Classic Malts are as much a matter of expedience as anything. Who, after all, distinguishes "West Highland" from "Highland", unless they also include "North Highland" and "East Highland"? I take that about as seriously as the tasting notes.
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Postby Admiral » Thu Apr 28, 2005 4:34 am

Yes, the choice of "regions" has always amused me with the Classic Malts.

No prizes for guessing why, though. If Diageo don't own a distillery in a recognised region............. :wink:
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Postby Lord_Pfaffin » Thu Apr 28, 2005 4:55 am

Mr Fjeld wrote:I'm just wandering - could the peppery character be an effect of the tannins of the cask?

Skål!
Christian

There is an Austrailian merlot called, "The Little Penguin", which is extremely peppery as a result of its aging-casks' tannins. Maybe there is something to that suggestion, Christian.
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Postby Lawrence » Fri Apr 29, 2005 2:13 am

It's true what you say to a certain extent about regions but don't you think that the Classic Malts and their "regions" were the first understanding of regions for a lot of new whiskies drinkers? That and MJ's Malt Whisky Companion?

It's sort of like the debt you spoke of with Glenfiddich. I look at the Classic Malts Regions as being the grade school introduction to malts, it shows a lot of people that there are some regional differences in a coarse sort of way.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Apr 29, 2005 10:29 pm

Lawrence, next thing you'll tell me is that the history I learned in school wasn't right. Like we didn't win the War of 1812 or something! :wink:
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Postby Lawrence » Fri Apr 29, 2005 11:10 pm

Didn't the people who now make scotch burn down the White House and Capitol buildings in that war? I think it was a minor regional scrap. :wink:
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Postby bernstein » Sun May 08, 2005 5:14 pm

Just a thought. Considering the possible ‘dumbing down’ at Talisker’s (and of course considering the moderate price-tag), are those IBs adequate alternatives?
    MacLeod’s Rare “Island” 1991/2000 Cask No. 3076-3079 (Talisker) 43%vol. 0,7l € 27,90
    MacLeod’s Rare “Island” 1991/2000 Cask No. 5060-5063 (Talisker) 43%vol. 0,7l € 27,90
An internet-shop is offering these expressions, but I have close to no experiences with IBs. So I thought, maybe someone out there is wiser than I am. Could anyone give any advice? Just a thought.
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Postby andrewfenton » Sun May 08, 2005 7:47 pm

I've had those MacLeod's Talisker versions before - they're basically identical to the standard Talisker 10, but slightly lower ABV.

In Britain they're slightly cheaper, about 23 euros, but they aren't identified as Talisker (they switch around between Talisker, Ledaig, Highland Park and Jura).
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