A Tale of Two Taliskers: 10 YO bottled 2011 vs 10 YO bottles 2013

I have recently reviewed the Talisker 10 Year Old and as mentioned, I checked the "L1" bottling code near the base of the bottle which told me that it was bottled in 2011. (It couldn't have been 2001 as the box artwork was completely different back then).
Strolling through Machane Yehuda I popped into "David Chaim" wine store (See my previous post on wine stores in and around Machane Yehuda) to check what was new. After chatting with the salesman for a while I ended up giving him a crash course in Single Malt whiskies which he was very grateful for.
He had a few whiskies there which caught my eye such as an old bottle of Ardbeg 10 in a presentation box as well as  a Tomatin 15 Year Old but I really had my eye on that box of Talisker 10 Year Old with the artwork of rocks and crashing waves, which was different to the plain blue box I already had. He allowed me to open the box so I checked the bottling code which read "L3". That told me that it was bottled in 2013. I then proceeded to ask him prices of various whiskies and eventually managed to bargain him down on the Talisker to NIS 260.

 Obviously my intention upon buying this Talisker 10 was to continue what is turning out to be a a bit of a mini-series of same expressions - but from different years - whisky comparisons.

As far as marketing presentation was concerned, this 2013 expression was a lot more extravagant with dramatic artwork on the box and nice touches like the artist's signature on the inside of the lid. Where as the 2011 label looked a bit 1980s style with slightly yellowed paper, the 2013 label was printed on clean while paper with a more sophisticated graphical layout. The "10" had been moved from the centre spot to the right hand side in order to accommodate a drawing of the Isle of Skye on the left. Very nice!

The front label of the 2013 bottling boasts that Talisker is the only distillery on the Isle of Skye but this, Be'ezrat Hashem, is about to change. Building has commenced in a 19th century farm building complex at Torabhaig in the Sleat Pennisula at the southern end of the island. They hope to be ready and start distilling by the end of this year.

An Artist's impression of Torabhaig Distillery

 Listen, any distillery that begins with "Torah" is obviously off to a good start so I wish everyone at Torabhaig Distillery beHatzlecha and look forward to sampling some Cask Strength, Non-Chilled Filtered, No Added Colour Torabhaig in a few years time perhaps...

The 45.8% abv Mystery Solved

Both Taliskers were bottled at 45.8% abv. Indeed most of Talisker's other expressions are also bottled at 45.8% abv. In my previous post on Talisker I asked why the strange percentage? Why not just 46% like Tobermory for instance? Googling around, I received an answer of sorts. It seems that Talisker have traditionally always bottled at the old alcohol level measurement system of "80 Proof". So 45.8% abv was simply a translation into the new standard. However when I actually calculated this myself (yes I know, typical me!), I found that 80 Proof worked out at 45.7% abv. Anyway, it's near enough I suppose. I'm not complaining. The higher the figure the better!

Consistant Fake Tan

Putting both bottles side by side (see photo above) the first thing I noticed is that they are exactly the same colour! We are talking 3 years apart, completely different batches and casks and lo and behold, these bottles look like they've come off of the production line, one after the other! Clear proof that Diageo have been sloshing that E150 Caramel colouring around in the final blend, just to make sure that when Ploni Aloni comes to replace his old bottle of Talisker with a new one, he will not see any difference at all. What a shame that they feel they have to do this.

How we carried out the tasting

I gave everyone at the table two Glencairn glasses containing our two Taliskers. One of the pair of glasses had a distillery name printed on it to which I added the 2011, the other glass was plain to which I added the 2013. I also added a few drops of water to each glass.

The Aroma

Straight off the bat we were all amazed at just how incredibly different these whiskies smelled. Both had lashings of peat smoke wafting up from the glass with some sweet ginger. Both recognisable as Taliskers but both quite singular in nature. These differences were so  thought-provoking that they kept our attention for a good 15 minutes before we actually got round to the initial sipping.

There were some puzzled faces around the table.

"Which is the newest one again?", someone in my family asked.

I understood exactly what he was saying. The "old" 2011 had much more of an alcohol nip to it and a greener fresher aroma. The 2013 smelled older, your mellow, more mature, as if it had been sitting in the bottle for longer (or contained older whiskies in the blend perhaps?). However, I can assure you that I had not switched the samples round. The 2013 had a definite older, more mature character to it. The 2011 the smell of  a lot fresher and friskier spirit.

The 2013 had a warm, creamy barley and oats breakfast cereal and honey smell where as the 2011 was noticeably spicy with sweet brittle toffee and treacle. Nope, no honey in the 2011 and little detectable spice in the 2013.

The 2013 had the smell of an old, well used siddur with leather cover and warn paper. The 2011 also had a leather smell but this was of brand new retzuos (leather Tephilin straps), polished and freshly painted with black ink.

By the way. It was fascinating that no one ever mentioned pepper (either white or black) or chilly pepper.

Taste Comparison:

2013                                                                                                              2011

Taking our first sips pretty much confirmed what we had been smelling.

The 2013 had smoky wood and old Siddur leather with creamy heather honey, soft digestive biscuits, soft chewy ginger biscuits, lemon meringue pie, rich milky toffee chews and spice cake in the finish with more smoke and creamy fudge.

The 2011 was a lovely cup of strong English tea with full fat milk, brittle smoky toffee treacle, barley sugars, ginger flavoured travel boiled sweets, zesty tropical fruits, citrus, lemon rind, freshly sprayed furniture polish on shiny wood, some crunchy spices, a hint of sea air and dark smoky burnt toffee to finish.

Again with the taste, no one picked up hot black pepper or chillies which is after all, what everyone says about the Talisker 10.


These two Talisker 10s might look the same but they sure don't taste the same. Honestly, had someone given me these two glasses in a blind taste then I think I would have identified them as Taliskers. The 2011 as the 10 Year Old, the 2013 as the 18 year old. I've tasted the Caol Ila 10 along side the Caol 18 as well as the Laphroaig 10 along side the Laphroaig 18 and I tell you, the contrast was similar with these two whiskies.

Which one do I prefer? I'd say the 2011 version. There are simply more things tastes and layers in the development and the finish was more substantial and longer.

Which was the more approachable? Obviously that would be the 2013 which is softer and creamier but, in my opinion has lost a lot of the edge of its older brother.

Fascinating that we can definitely see a smoothing of the edges with the 2013, obviously to try and appeal to a wider audience.

What I would really like to do now is to find an earlier bottling from say the early 2000s and see if this has that black pepper and chilly  taste, 'cause these certainly don't!


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