Talisker 57 Degrees North
Talisker 57 Degrees North. 57% abv, Price in Israel. Between 425 and 450 Shekels
“Remember the good old 1980s,
When things were so uncomplicated.
I wish I could go back there again,
And everything could be the same.”
Lyrics to “Ticket To The Moon” by The Electric Light Orchestra. 1981.
I remember back in the 1989 when I picked up a bottle of Talisker 10 Year-Old from the Duty-Free in Gatwick, on my way home to Israel. It came in a light beige box with a detailed map of the Isle of Skye. The label’s colour matched the box's, with a smaller version of the map printed to one side.
It was such a simple uncomplicated package design but very effective. When you picked up the bottle, it was as if you could smell the salt from the hands of the guy on Skye who filled the bottle and packed it in the box. Of course this notion is complete ‘shtut’ as even back then, Diageo bottled Talisker in their central bottling plant near Perth, in the centre of mainland Scotland, but you get the point. It looked authentic.
Oh, how I wish I had kept a bottle of the old Ten-Year-Old to show people what it was like back then. Back then, Talisker was rough and tough like a fisherman’s rope and as muscular as the fisherman himself who used that rope whilst bobbing up and down in the stormy Atlantic.
From my memory, it was without any of the caramel toffee sweetness you get in today’s Taliskers. This old Talisker was bottled at 45.8% abv (as they are today), it was dry like soot with hot black salty pepper on the nose and palette, like standing at a coastal seaside railway platform in the 1930s and getting covered in smoke from a steam train approaching the station.
I have to admit; at the time I didn’t like the stuff.
I bet I’d love it now!
I bet I’d love it now!
I have stayed away from the Talisker Skye No Age Statement as well as the new releases of the Talisker 10s, as not only are they too caramel-sweet but they are so dreadfully dark brown from all the E150a caramel colouring they add to them. Experts say that you cannot taste E150a colouring but perhaps they have never tried the new Taliskers?
My recollection of the Talisker Ten from the 1980s was that it was a pale dirty straw gold which only complimented its image of a whisky from a rough heather covered Scottish island. Today’s Taliskers look like watered down HP sauce and taste like whisky flavoured toffee liquors.
There is however one exception to the current Talisker range which I certainly would recommend. OK, so it is a NAS whisky, (although it certainly doesn’t taste like young whisky), and it does contain a ridiculous amount of E150a brown colouring which gives it a horrible fake rusty tan. (Diageo, when will you finally learn that adding colouring is costing you sales!)
But this Talisker is bottled at near cask strength of 57% abv and although it doesn’t state it, I’m telling you that it’s Non Chilled Filtered. What really sets it apart for me, is that it has that same rough and tough muscular fisherman’s character about it which I remember from back in the good old 1980s. Oh, and no less important, it’s absolutely delicious stuff.
I am talking about none other than the Talisker 57 Degrees North.
“It’s like Latitude 88 North,
It’s so cold, cold as hell,
35 below and falling,
Oh, how I wish that she was calling me.”
The Electric Light Orchestra 1977
OK, this is what I want you to do. Find a quiet moment. Open your bottle of Talisker 57 Degrees North, pour yourself a generous dram into a Glencairn glass, add a teaspoon or two of water (or if it’s a hot day, a cube of ice), place it down on the table before you and look at it. Wait and watch. Gradually, the whisky will turn so misty, it will become so opaque it will start to resemble a filthy grey cloud in a thunderstorm. It is a wonder to behold!
Swirl the whisky around in the glass and observe the oily sea water effect.
On the Nose
Sweet coastal sea engine oil steam train smoke after a rain storm. Smelly beeswax. Some coal soot from the engine. A lot, and I mean a lot, of sweet wood spices. Sooty, salty with a slight savoury cheesy peat. Furniture polish, freshly ground Black Pepper and sea-salt crystals, wet old leather, mixed spices, apple and honey cake with a touch of red chilli pepper.
For a NAS this does not behave like whisky containing young spirit. On the contrary, in a blind taste, I’d say this was an old whisky, say 18 to 25 years old.
Swirling it around in the mouth, it has a full bodied and oily sea water mouth feel. Salty crackers, Black pepper Kettle crisps, salty cheese caramel snacks, cooked apples with black treacle, burnt brittle toffee, beeswax with a touch of herring oil.
Then, all the sweet notes come through. Sour apple, maple Syrup, crunchy caramelised almonds, tons of mixed spice and rich homemade honey cake. In the background, despite all the toffee sweetness, there is hint of rough dry leather and prickly rope.
With more water you get white wine, pear juice, peppery pineapple and sweet barbeque chilli sauce. On the finish, apple and honey on a salty cheesy cracker and then soft toffee and pepper that melts in the mouth and sticks to the palette with a coating of herring oil.
This is one of the most complex single malts on the market in its price range at the moment.
It is by far the best and most natural tasting Talisker I've tasted in 30 years. No matter how much we wish, we cannot go back to the good old 1980s, but we can get a flavour of what Talisker used to taste like back then, and without resorting to purchasing a vintage bottle costing into the high three figures on an auction site.
Highly recommended as the last dram of the evening.