Whisky Review: Talisker, 10 Years Old

I think it’s fair to say that although I’m a fan of mainland whisky, I have a particular liking for island drinks. So after the oily nightmare of Jack Daniel’s when I wanted to restore my faith in oily whiskies, it was a natural choice to turn to a youthful Talisker.

A light smoke covers a fruitiness to the aroma. It’s worth spending time on the vapours before taking a sip. wait until the sweet apply scent comes through. Then take your sip. The oil is there, but unlike the brash american, this is a light oil. Rather like the difference between petrol and virgin olive oil. In fact, taste them side by side and that’s just what comes to mind.

There’s more in the Talisker, though, again unlike the one note american. There’s a few stereotypes of a whisky – as you’d expect with a young bottling. Hints of heather, seaweed and moor come through at different times in the mouth, leaving you with a warm pepper over the tongue, stopping just at the top of the throat after you swallow.

But throughout there’s the slightly slick comfort of that virgin oil, smoothing the way.

Lovely.

whisky review.talisker

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Whisky Review: @Bunnahabhain 40 Years Old

I’m entertaining the possibility that I have been wrong these many years. That there is a God, there is a heaven. And crucially, I have recently died and gone there. The big news is that God is not an Englishman after all, but a Scot from the north east coast of Islay.

This would explain the perfection within my glass.

I had high expectations for this whisky. Considering the order of magnitude improvement that the 37 year old Lagavulin showed over its (already excellent) 12 year old stablemate, and the equally impressive comparison of the 25 year old Bunnahabhain with her younger sibling, I half expected the 40 year old to be that much better again. I half expected it not be, because that level of improvement seemed impossible.

But as Muhammed Ali said:

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

But enough hyperbole. Not that this whisky could have enough. My first draft of this review simply ran out of superlatives. I had a second glass just to try and find something to criticise or suggest improvement.

My favourite thing about this beautiful drink is breathing out. The vapour in your throat fills your mouth, your nose and you experience the drink’s resurrection- a whole secondary flavour and experience. It’s entirely different to the opening aroma, and different again from the first piquancy, or the aftertaste.

whisky review.Bunnahabhain40

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Whisky Review: @Bunnahabhain Cruach-Mhòna

This was the second of the three bottles sent by the fine distillery on the north-east coast of Islay and it was completely different to the Toiteach.

It’s an interesting bottle from the outset: It isn’t available to buy in the normal way because sadly, if you want a bottle you have to get it from duty free. On the other hand you’ll be reading this after I’ve already had that opportunity. I’ll be sure to exercise the option, too.

Different it may be, but that doesn’t mean it’s not just as good. As regular readers will know, I’m a fan, no an acolyte, of Bunnahabhain. Every bottle I try is different, and every bottle is excellent.

I do have a criticism. It’s a small one, but important. It’s one that has the capacity of harming sales, and consequently the deserved appreciation of this, and other Bunnahabhain whiskies… It’s the naming policy. All the scots gaelic. Toiteach, and this one: Cruach-Mhòna. Yes, they do create an ambiance, but it’s tough to pronounce when you haven’t had your first two or three. After that, for an englishman like me, it’s nigh on impossible.

Now that’s out of the way, on with the whisky.

Loved it. The ‘duty free only’ status has given me a bonus reason to go abroad. It’s firm, unforgiving. Peatier than you’d expect from the distillery, but the peat is, as with the Toiteach, very subtle. At the risk of sounding pretentious, the drink is rather more audacious. Even with the peat, the aroma is crisp, fresh. It’s not unlike stepping outside and smelling the woodsmoke from the chimney on a chill winter morning. It’s comforting like that.

The comfort doesn’t stop there. It warms you through as you drink, the light peat is accompanied in a variety of taste over the mouth during, and after, the drink. There’s a saltiness and something else. The tasting notes on the Bunnahabhain website (as always, read afterwards) say it’s seaweed. I didn’t identify it as that, but as I couldn’t identify it as anything else, I’ll go along with that.

This was another outstanding whisky. I’m going to have to force myself to drink whiskies from other distilleries. Bunnahabhain are producing such a range, and all good.

But…

I did drink it with the anticipation of another. The third of the three bottles Bunnahabhain sent: A 40 year old that I was saving for my birthday. And perhaps the anticipation of that took away a little from the purity of the experience.

whisky review.Bunnahabhain Cruach-Mhona

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Whisky Review: Jack Daniel’s Old No7 – @JackDaniels_US

Go on, admit it, you never thought you’d see me review a drink that wasn’t scottish. Or that spelled ‘Whisky’ with an ‘E’.

Yes, this is Jack Daniel’s Old No7 Tennessee Whiskey. A drink beloved of those who want to pollute it with coke.

Why am I reviewing it? Surely I didn’t willingly sully the Monk’s Bench with an american brand? No, of course not, but I got some for Christmas. Clearly my sister hates me.  What a truly passive aggressive way to show it. Buy me a bottle of whisky – Hurrah, spell it with an ‘e’ and make it American, not even Irish – Boo, hiss.

But it’d be rude not to try it. So I did. For the first time in 25 years since a long forgotten girlfriend insisted. Two things strike me. First, that there’s a reason people do their best to disguise it with coke. Second, there’s a reason I’ve not drunk any in 25 years (or thought about the girlfriend).

It has an oily smell, tempered with a very sweet, pine edge. Not unlike all purpose kitchen cleaner. The flavour has no subtlety. It is exactly what it is, assaulting your mouth, unchanging, un-nuanced.

There’s obviously a place for Jack Daniel’s. It sells in enviously high volumes. And it certainly isn’t the worst american whiskey. But nor is it the best, just one of the most prominent and consistent.

I’ve been trying to find a way of shoehorning in the obvious pun about something not meaning Jack. But my creativity escapes me. Hey ho.

whisky review.Jack Daniels

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