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Talisker Brews Up a Storm

Jack Bettridge
Posted: December 23, 2013

Talisker has released its Storm—a permanent, no-age-statement addition to the brand's portfolio—on the United States. And the forecast is for an even more intense swell of smoke and brine from the Isle of Skye's only single-malt Scotch distiller.

Talisker Storm joins the 10-, 18- and 25-year expressions of this Island malt. Jim Beveridge, master blender of Diageo, which oversees Talisker as part of its Classic Malts Selection, has said that forgoing an age statement allows for a fuller range of the distillery's whiskies to be employed in one bottle.

The whiskies marry spirits from a combination of refilled and rejuvenated casks. Most Scotch whisky is aged in a wood that has been previously used to mature other spirits. Refill casks are simply replenished with new-make whisky. With rejuvenated casks, the outer layers of the inner surface of the staves are scraped off and then charred again. While the refill casks are a combination of European and American wood, the rejuvenated barrels are made strictly from American oak. Diageo operates the Cambus Cooperage for the purpose of processing the millions of barrels that go into aging its many Scotch whiskies, which include the blends Johnnie Walker and J&B, as well as a number of single malts.

Talisker is the lone distillery on Scotland's Isle of Skye. Its setting is a dichotomy of maritime and mountain influences. Sitting on the Sea of the Hebrides on the island's eastern shore, it is surrounded to the west by often snow-capped peaks. The whisky made there is rivaled only in peatiness by the malts of Islay, another Scottish island considerably to the south. The peat influence in Talisker comes not only from the process in which malted barley is smoked by burning that decayed vegetation, but the water used for the spirit has its own quotient picked up from the local soil.

The concept of terroir—site-specific influence in taste—is tossed around quite a bit in the whisky world; Talisker's Storm is one place the words ring particularly true.

(Cigar pairings on next page)

Talisker Storm (91.6 proof, or percent alcohol by volume; no age statement; $66 a 750-milliliter bottle)

APPEARANCE: Golden yellow color. Medium-width, quick legs.

NOSE: Interesting mix of smoky and sweet aromas with a slight mustiness. The sugar quotient is honey and a bit of flowers. The smoke is, of course, peat. And then there's the briny, seaweed quality of the shore it once sat on.

PALATE: After a blast of peat that same dichotomy appears on the palate. The sweet smoke is like the meeting of toast and jam. Oranges and red berries play with the honey of the nose, and anise and clove cavort with the salt and peat.

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