Talisker has the motto “Made by the sea” written in silver or gold on all of its bottles for a reason. After all, there is hardly another distillery in Scotland, whose product epitomizes the image of a maritime malt as perfectly as the fruity, peppery and peated whisky from the Isle of Skye. While sipping a dram of Talisker is always a rewarding experience, it is even better in a special setting: Thus, barkeeper extraordinaire Uwe Christiansen and his team had prepared something unique for the three dozen attendees of yesterday’s Talisker vertical tasting. Together with Heiko Tagawa, Sales Manager Reverse at Diageo, we boarded the MS Kleine Freiheit and embarked on a 2.5-hour harbor trip. While the waves gently rocked our vessel, we savored six expressions from the distillery’s core range plus a few other specialties from Diageo’s wide-spread portfolio.
Before we entered the ship, Heiko pointed out that this would be less of an educational event and more of an easy-going get-together. Of course, we still learned quite a lot about Talisker and its whiskies in the course of the trip. But even more so, we loosened up, mingled, talked, chuckled and – of course – drank Talisker at sea! We started the evening with a glass of Black Label with ginger ale, followed by a dram of Talisker 10yo. Though it seemed a bit random at first, the introductory drink was not chosen arbitrarily at all. As Heiko explained to us, Talisker and Johnnie Walker go back a long way. Not only was the Skye-based distillery Johnnie Walker’s second acquisition back in 1916 (the first was Cardhu), but also is Talisker to this day one of the leading whiskies in the best-selling Black Label blend. With a bit of practice, Heiko said, you can easily make out the malt’s unique flavor profile in the blend’s recipe and even in the ginger ale shake.
The mild and savory Talisker Skye, which was created to cautiously guide entry-level drammers towards the peat and the pepper, was next. It gave us a little time to breathe before the powerful 57° North slapped us in the face with a massive 100 proof. Sadly, we learned that this superb high-strength whisky will be discontinued in 2018. So if you enjoy it as much as I do, you might want to get yourself another bottle before it is gone from the market for good. The amoroso-refined Distillers Edition and the port-finished Port Ruighe marked our drams number four and five. In the first, a pleasant smokiness mixed up with a mouthwatering sweetness to form a premium Scotch of distinct quality. And in the latter, the additional maturation in Portuguese dessert wine casks brought forth delicious notes of dried fruits and dark chocolate.
For the last Talisker expression of the evening, namely the aptly called Storm, Heiko suggested a rather uncommon drinking routine. We went on deck, took a good slug, kept it in our mouths for half a minute, gulped it down and immediately afterwards breathed in the cold sea air – a fun experience that intensified the whisky’s peatiness a lot! Once our glasses were empty, the official part of the tasting was over. But our trip was not. We stayed on board for another 45 minutes or so, enjoying the beautiful scenery, eating hot sausages, drinking chilled beers and having more drams. Oh yes. Besides additional refills of our favorite Taliskers, Heiko also invited us to try the Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold (which our host had secretly placed on deck before the ship left from the quay) and the Johnnie Walker Espresso Roast (whose distinct coffee notes I found to be utterly amazing). Once we were back on firm ground, some of the attendees went straight home, while others continued to Christiansen’s Fine Drinks & Cocktails to buy a Talisker bottle for a special price or end the evening on one last dram. I am sure I speak for all of them, when I finish my recap of the tasting with a bold, loud and pronounced “Thank you!” to Uwe, Heiko and everyone else, who made this one-of-a-kind event possible!
Johnnie Walker Black Label (Single Malt / Scotland / NAS/ 40% / ~23.00 Euro)
Talisker 10 Years Old (Single Malt / Scotland / 10yo / 45.8% / ~35.00 Euro)
Talisker Skye (Single Malt / Scotland / 10yo / 45.8% / ~30.00 Euro)
Talisker 57° North (Single Malt / Scotland / NAS / 57% / ~60.00 Euro)
Talisker Distillers Edtion 2016 (Single Malt / Scotland / 10yo / 45.8% / ~47.00 Euro)
Talisker Port Ruighe (Single Malt / Scotland / NAS / 40% / ~40.00 Euro)
Talisker Storm (Single Malt / Scotland / NAS/ 45.8% / ~35.00 Euro)
Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold (Single Malt / Scotland / NAS/ 43% / ~35.00 Euro)
Johnnie Walker Espresso Roast (Blended Whisky / Scotland / NAS/ 43.2% / ~25.00 Euro)
Talisker @ Web: https://www.malts.com/en-row/distilleries/talisker/ (Distillery)
Diageo @ Web: https://www.diageo.com/ (Company)
Christiansen’s @ Web: http://www.christiansens.de/ (Location)
MS Kleine Freiheit @ Web: https://www.frs-hanseferry.de/informationen/ms-kleine-freiheit/ (Boat)