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.
FINISH: The flavors of the palate systematically roll over the senses like the tide rolling before finally making a rather sharp end with a bit of Stilton cheese that signals that it's time to re-up with another dram.
CIGAR PAIRING: J. Fuego Sangre De Toro Belicoso (Nicaragua, 5 1/2 inches by 52 ring gauge torpedo, $6.70, 90 points, October 2013 Cigar Aficionado) This dark belicoso offers flavors of licorice and tar with meaty-tasting underpinnings that stick to the palate. Spicy notes emerge on the finish. We expected that the toasty, nuttiness of this cigar would meld with like flavors on the whiskey. What we didn't foresee was that it would also showcase the fruit at the eye of the Storm. The Fuego gets a healthy dose of chocolate in return as well as nuts and toast.
Flor De Antillas Toro (Nicaragua, 6 inches by 52 ring gauge, $6.90, 96 Points, Cigar Aficionado Cigar of the Year 2012) Tawny and pressed with distinct shoulders and a contoured head. Each chewy puff imparts a concentrated interplay of white pepper, nutmeg and lavender flavor. The floral characteristics of the cigar match well with the Scotch, brightening it and enhancing its fruity, citrus flavors. The Toro's spices get bolder and chewier. The interplay between the two keeps up until it becomes difficult to determine which is enhancing the other. Savory flavors abound as do sweetness and understated salt notes. Dieters take note: Pair these after a meal and you'll need no dessert. Yum City!