When I tell scotch aficionados that my first scotch was a Talisker 10 year old, there is a moment of disbelief. Talisker isn’t exactly a starter whisky. It’s a single malt (meaning one distillery, aged at-least 3 years, and malted barley is the only grain ingredient) that calls the Isle of Skye home. It’s the only whisky distilled in Skye and it is a beast.
During a private Johnnie Walker tasting, Stephen Wilson singled me out because I was the youngest member of the group. He was curious to know what my first whisky experience was. I told him about the night my first girlfriend Stephaine introduced me to Talisker. She had just received the bottle as an early birthday present and wanted to share it with me. At the time, I had not had a proper drink in my life. Only sips of beer here and there. She told me to let the whisky breathe for a few minutes. in the mean time, she said I should smell the Talisker, take in it’s unique scents. The aroma of the seaside mixed with citrus and a smokey peat. I didn’t know what peat was, but she explained it as a moss: decayed vegetable stuff that is lit up and used to dry the barley. “It’s weird, but trust me, it’s good.”
She warned me that the sip was going to be harsh, that it was going to burn; from the second it touched my lips all the way till it reached my stomach where it would begin to permeate as a warm feeling across my body. She said the taste would be just like the smell, but with dark chocolate at the beginning and a burst of pepper at the end. She said it would last for awhile, but not to worry. Stephanie said “You’ll love it Julie. I know it.”
Everything she said was true. It was such a strong experience, I can still remember all the sensations of that night. I told Stephen that Talisker is my go to Single Malt (it wasn’t a faux pas, Johnnie Walker and Talisker are both owned by Diageo). My love of Talisker maybe a little biased, but I’ve tasted a large amount of whisky over the years and it is certainly one of the best. It goes for about $60, about the middle ground for an excellent whiskey. Go out and get yourself a bottle. You won’t regret it.
Bonus: Tasting notes for Talisker 2011 Distiller’s Edition (thanks to my lovely friend Erika for getting me a bottle for Christmas). Nose is remarkably similar to the 10 year old. It has that seaside and peat, but with a hint of vanilla and flowers. Palate is again is similar, but the burn is much stronger and the dark chocolate taste is much darker. There also a sweet note, like butterscotch (I’ve also heard toffee), that is balanced out by everything else. It’s bottled at the same 45.8% alc./vol as the 10 year old, but the extra maturing in Amoroso Sherry casks extenuates everything. It’s a little too much to be my go to Talisker (both in price, a hefty $74, and taste), but it’s very nice to have every once in while.