Whisky Odyssey
Old-fashioned with a twist of the modern 

Talisker 1993 single casks head to head

 While rummaging through my sample drawer for the next instalment of the Something Special Saturday, I thought it would be nice to do something from the Scottish Islands. It was only then that I discovered I actually have two Talisker single malt whisky’s in possession that were both distilled in 1993. We need no more reason than that to make a pairing! Now, the first glass is filled with an Adelphi sourced single cask, and was a long time favourite of mine after sampling it first in a tasting organised by a local retailer. Adelphi had these wonderful undisclosed “Breathes”, most of them of fantastic quality. The Speyside expressions were most times represented by very juicy Glenfarclas, while in the Islay expressions I once tasted a Lagavulin that would pass comparison to legendary Brora with flying colours. Back to Talisker. We pit this teenage bourbon cask off to a worthy adversary, a sherry matured 27 year old single cask by Hart Brothers.


Breathe of the Isles 1993, 14 years old, bottled at 57 % abv by Adelphi

Makeup: Exactly 301 bottles came from a single cask with the number 3746, a refill hogshead.

General impressions: Seems so very modest, does it not, just a simple hogshead and a lot of bottles coming from it after 14 years of maturation. The initial impression is that of burned pinecone and wet rocks, sprayed with sea water. A fresh Summer’s day above the Loch Harport bay. Blue skies, white sheep’s cloud. Needs some time to open. It has a nice peaty tang, not very dominant, but easily to mistake for an Islay whisky.
Ah yes, this is very pure and clean Talisker! The smoke has fantastic interplay with very subtle vanilla notes, and an abundance of pepper. Rather easy to drink at 57 % but you feel it on the finish, where this Talisker leaves a warming afterglow. Some lemons linger on while you crave a next sip, which we are going to take with a drop of water.

Water brings out a more fierce element, infused with salt just long enough before the pepper takes over again. The overall feeling of it becomes a bit dry. It is on the smell where you notice most change, because water brings out a mineral quality. You know this slogan that official Taliskers carry on box and bottle? Made by the sea. But this Talisker is very modest in its maritime side. This time I am not on Islay, but instead picking up Campbeltownesque notes of wet pebbles, relative to purely matured Longrow.

Conclusion: A rather a-typical Talisker that shows it true colours most on the tastebuds. The aroma is confusing because it takes you on a trip around Scotland, but it is still beautiful. Give it time to bloom open, use water sparingly.

Score: 89 points

Disclaimer: taken from a self-owned large share with a whisky friend.

Talisker 1993, 27 years old, bottled at 50,5 % abv by Hart Brothers

Makeup: This is a single cask (number unknown) that matured for 27 years in a First Fill Sherry Butt. The distillation took place in December 1993, bottled in January 2021 by Hart Brothers. The abv is the cask strength.

General impressions: The glass fills a dark golden brown liquid. The sherry influence should be very noticeable. Indeed this comes off more like a traditional sherry whisky than an island one. Fresh, fruity, raisins and creamy caramel. Lots of cherries. And then, finally, some wood smoke that indicates this is an island single malt.

Taking a sip, this all changes, the strong family bond with the Breathe of the Isles is established. This exact same fierce peppery fire takes the tongue, even though it is enveloped in the sweet shackles of the sherry maturation. And quite some more years too. I notice a good dose of tobacco leaves and wood, as if you licked the insides of a cigar box you just emptied. It is all rather complex, but then the finish soothes the tasting session, with the mellowest exit one can imagine. This Talisker leaves on notes of pure cacao powder and black coffee.

Though it does not really need it, we add a drop of water anyway just to see what happens. Well, interestingly enough, the Talisker turns more medicinal and we are reminded of old Laphroaig. Hints of vinegar too. The whole soul of the whisky changes more to an old 1970s single malt. The one that makes you feel like walking in a dusty library.

Conclusion: Sherry and Talisker make for an interesting combination, as one of the most legendary Talisker expressions out there proves. This is not in the same league as that famous one, but it does share an amazing complexity. Almost as if the malt is talking to you. Grand old stuff.

Score: 92 points

Disclaimer: sample acquired through membership of a Blind Tasting Bottle Club.

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