Friday, April 11, 2014

Whisky Review: Talisker Dark Storm

This release is a travel retail-only version of Talisker's NAS Storm. It purports to be aged in 'charred casks', which is an effectively meaningless phrase as all scotch whisky is aged in charred casks. My thoughts as to what it really means after the tasting notes.

As with most Talisker releases, this was bottled at 45.8%, though I suspect that it is chill filtered and possibly colored.

Thanks to Ian of PDXWhisky for this sample.

Talisker Dark Storm

Nose: rather floral on top (diminishing with time), new lumber and malt underneath, some woody dry fruit, sour vegetal peat, savory caramel, dusty grain, vanilla, subtle sherry/bourbon fruit notes and sweet raisins, wood smoke/char, brown rice, youth is barely covered by the casks, cardboard. After adding a few drops of water, it becomes more savory with a sort of woody meat pie quality and some brown sugar/maple notes come out.

Taste: very woody throughout with new lumber character, sucrose sweetness from the drop - fading towards the back, peat is hard to find through the thicket of oak, some raisin notes from mid to the back. After dilution, the flavor profile flattens dramatically - almost no development with overlapping lumber and sucrose sweetness all the way through, with raisins, bitter wood char, and some salt showing up right at the back.

Finish: rather tannic wood, sour peat residue, raisins, and unpleasantly sweet edge

This is lowest common denominator whisky. Almost all of Talisker's distinctive character has been stripped out, leaving sweetness, wood, and a bit of peat. If I didn't know already, it would be hard to peg where this whisky is from. Might have guessed Caol Ila, blind.

I have a hunch that this may be whisky from rejuvenated casks, which would explain the intense sweetness coupled with fresh lumber yard wood. It has a lot of the flaws of craft whiskey, with the same sort of wood flavors that you get when a distiller is trying to speed up extraction. Sadly this seems to be where a lot of new whisky is headed these days.

I'm glad to have tried this, mostly because it's going to keep me away from Talisker's NAS releases. They appear to be scraping the bottom of the barrel for the travel retail market. While even the standard 10 Year appears to be losing some quality, it's likely still better than this.


  1. Having just royally flubbed my latest small barrel experiment, I'm learning where that bitter wood / lumber note may be coming from, an exhausted cask. The spirit soaks beyond the char and gets into the raw xylem and phloem of the oak itself, bringing out the bitter and resinous compounds within. The result is unpleasant and unpalatable, and it's an unwise risk for any whisky brand (large or small) to release a product with that problem. I'm not even going to let anyone else taste my 2 liters of D4P WTF Whisky as it is.

    But there's definitely some barrel scraping going on at Talisker, in more than one way. I'm not shocked, but I am disappointed that this is the path chosen for one of the great distilleries.

  2. Also, thanks for the link to Teemu's post on recharred casks, as I've been trying to figure out the actual science behind what happened.