Talisker 8 2021 Special Release

My recent picks of whisky have dove into ideas of what I know about whisky, where we might be now, where we have been, and what changes may have happened. Since my life seems to be an exercise in slowly reacting to something external and seeing how my particular set of genes handles it, one shouldn’t be surprised I’m applying it to whisky. And unless I find a couple hundred million sitting around I won’t be working on improving logistics to help the current whisky pricing situation.

What I can do is keep self-reflecting, and of course the ultimate self-reflection as a Scotch nerd is to look at Diageo.

On the one hand Diageo owns quite a few distilleries I enjoy: (Edit: why did I say Laphroaig), Caol Ila, Lagavulin, Mortlach, Talisker, and probably more but the website listing them isn’t doing me favours listing them. Can’t disagree with the scores I’ve given those, they own them, I drink them, the end.

On the other they make getting some of those whiskies in cask strength hard. Sure, I can grab most Blair Athol cask strength offerings from IBs, or even Caol Ila, but Lagavulin? No, we have to leave the name off that.

The answer seems simple: Wait until the release of their special releases, which brings me to the 2021 set that I’ll be reviewing over the next few days.

So where do I start? Well I had a close friend hand me a bottle of Talisker 10 as a thank you recently, and decided it’s going to be my parent’s house bottle moving forward, so Talisker 8 2021 Special Release, allowing me to compare and contrast to the standard.

What’s different? First off the obvious, it’s 2 years younger. Not a big deal to me. Age denotes little in certainty of quality. It’s matured in “heavily peated refill casks”, as in the ones that had the heaviest peaty character of the casks, versus casks that had previously help heavily peated whisky.

Cask strength too. So we’re looking for something that takes the typical Talisker 10 and gives us something different. That’s the idea on these whiskies: Give me something more, be it different, complexity, or some combination of both.

Does it work? Let’s see, shall we?

Price: £ 85

Region: Island

Cask types: Heavily peated refill casks

Abv: 59.7%

Colour: 7.5Y 9/3

Nose: Shrimp, charcoal, cocoa, grassy/anise

Some strong brine notes, which I relate with shrimp, I’m not saying that it has an obvious bad shrimp note, I’m saying there’s brine and clean shrimp notes, don’t @ me.

Are we good? Great. Hate mentioning seafood notes, but this is quite briney and has some smoke to it. Eventually you pull out anise, and are surprised and happy.

Wait for it…

Taste: Black licorice, chocolate wafers, cinnamon, apple, black pepper

Strong anise notes, some strong chocolate notes, and honestly it’s all spice after that. It goes back and forth and the anise takes over quite a bit. The apple is trying to balance it all out and let’s be honest, apples are amazing and all (they change every time you plant them!) but they have limits on flavour, and that limit is obvious here and it’s unbalanced.

Finish: Chocolate covered black licorice, sea salt, cinnamon, orange pith

Similar to the taste, however instead of mellow apple we have strong, obvious bitter notes on the orange. There’s a bit more to the finish, and I like it, but I’m a peathead. More peat? Like. Is it getting vastly more complex? No, it’s close to Octomore .1

Conclusion: An interesting take on Talisker with extra anise, which I feel most won’t like and should buy the 10 year standard instead. It’s a heavily peated whisky, for all the good and meh that brings. We’ve been through this so many times now I feel like I’m repeating myself.

Octomore is good, but typically when they use different casks. Ardbeg Supernova was fun, once, and then got repetitive. Same with Octomore .1. This is Talisker hoping the brine would balance it all out and it didn’t. So I’m going to rate this similarly, as I am a peathead, I do like drinking lots of peat, but it doesn’t get outside that box.

So if you’re a peat head, then have this at a bar. I’m happy with the 1 oz I had, and didn’t need to pour anything else. If you can find the 2018 version you’ll be a lot happier.


Scotch review #1528, Island review #168, Whisky Network review #2248

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