TALISKER BODEGA SERIES | TALISKER 40 YEAR OLD
Whisky (or whiskey) has a special trait of being as infinitely varied as those that choose to drink it. Whisky has almost innumerable options, with whiskies hailing from all parts of the world and from all manner of distilleries; within each distillery a further plethora of options, translated through the lens of that particular distillery, in that particular location.
Then there’s the soil, the casks, the age of maturation, and we haven’t even touched upon the many personalities of whiskies paraded at disparate venues throughout the cocktail world.
Having said that, for all the options of whisky, there are only a few with a story as enriched—or as extensive— as Talisker.
Remotely based on the West Coast of Scotland, the Talisker distillery is one of the hardest to get to; fly into the nearest airport (Inverness), you’re still a 3 hour drive away from Skye, and then once in Skye it’s still a further hour to get to the distillery.
Despite this, the distillery is still the most visited of the whisky brands in the Diageo portfolio, which says a lot for the cult whisky’s worldwide acclaim and unwavering appeal.
1830 is ordinarily referred to as where the whole Talisker story begins, but it was actually in 5 years earlier in 1825 that two brothers, Hugh & Kenneth McAskill, jumped in a boat and rowed across the Atlantic, because they wanted to start a new life on Skye. It was during the time where Scotland was going through arguably its greatest depression and the Highland Clearances1 were in full force. The brothers took those people and gave them a new form of employment, and that is when they built the Talisker Distillery.
As far as the dram goes, the flavour profile is complex and variable, and what is referred to as being “Medium-peated” so not as heavy as a Laprhoaig yet with a character that changes with your mood. The Talisker 10 is renown for its natural sweetness influenced by the saltiness of the sea and is a good benchmark for the range.
Having said that, there is a special project underway at Talisker called the “Talisker Bodega Series” that reference the brands past relations with their Spanish merchants, and most specifically, Sherry casks.
I sat down with Global Talisker Ambassador, Donald Colville to learn more about this new project and in particular the series launch whisky— Talisker 40 Year Old.
“Sherry casks were used because they were readily available. Sherry casks were readily available because the Spanish merchants were sailing around the UK and as many Sailors would do, they enjoyed a beverage here or there, so they would bring it with them. The guys would drink the sherry and the empty casks would be discarded at the port. People eventually started realising that these casks were actually quite useful, so they took them with them.”
As Donald continues the story, I learn that it was this relationship with the sailors that was key to whisky becoming a global brand so quickly. To put it into context, when Johnnie Walker was in 80 markets around the world, Coca-Cola was only in 3— make of that what you will.
Back to Talisker, the birth of the new Talisker 40 year old began with a trip to the brand’s past; it was going through the archives that they discovered in an Inventory of Cask purchasing from the late 1800’s, a particular Bodega in Spain that Talisker were not only buying Sherry casks from, but were actually working in partnership with, a house called Bodega Delgado Zuleta. This was Sherry defined by the influence of its coastal location— much like the Talisker whisky that hails from the Isle of Skye.
In homage of this time-honoured partnersip it was the Sherry Masters at Bodega Delgado Zuleta, that hand-picked five elite casks that once held the Bodega’s finest award-winning 40-year-old Amontillado sherry – the pinnacle of their sherry production, for finishing.
To stay true to the heritage of the partnership and to add weight of authenticity to this age old flavour profile, Talisker’s Master Blender helped to craft this precious 40-year-old liquid using a selection of the most mature and highly prized 1978 Vintage 40 year old Talisker, aged in refill casks.
Casks that once began the journey of a remarkable 40-year-old sherry, then travelled across the sea to Skye, to finish the journey of a remarkable 40-year-old Talisker.
The outcome? Thankfully, as you would have hoped.
It’s hard to put into words the flavour such a limited edition whisky; as with other Talisker whiskies, the flavour profile changes and the context of this particular whisky, but in this case even more so. It’s almost as if the Talisker 40 walks you through its story as you drink it, with each flavour evident in stages and then perhaps less so, much like actors in a play.
It’s essentially an echo of the old Talisker, enhanced by the gentle accent of the Amontillado sherry casks, with rich raisin, peaty aromas and a rare sweet opulence and fruity smokiness. The depth of the rich Delgado Zuleta Amontillado casks is evident in great waves of fruit and sweetness that offer a fine enriching foil to the traditional Talisker pepper, yielding a remarkably vigorous 40 year old that your taste buds will be delighted to navigate.
It’s the oldest Talisker ever launched on a global scale but sadly, only relative few will get to experience it as it’s limited to 5 casks— which equates to 2000 bottles. But fear not, it’s not called the Bodega Series for nothing as Donald explains:
“We’re not hiding that, it’s a series. At the minute there’s nothing else to talk about when it comes to the next evolution of this. We’re trying to showcase what Talisker would have tasted like in the late 1800’s. We don’t know, but this is what believe it could have tasted like. We’ll leave that to your imagination as to what the next release might be”
Talisker 40 Year Old (ABV 50%) will be available from selected luxury retailers globally from the end of June 2018 onwards. In the UK (domestic), RRSP of £2,750 per 70cl bottle.
- A Highland Clearance has been defined as “an enforced simultaneous eviction of all families living in a given area, such as an entire glen. The Clearances were a complex series of events occurring over more than a hundred years. ↩