Talisker 57° North. Named for the northerly line of latitude at which the distillery is situated on the Isle of Skye. Pretty fitting name and concept. I can get behind this one.
57° North is a high-test no age statement single malt from Talisker. Notice I’m not using the words ‘cask strength’ even though this one boasts a sky-high (pun intended) abv of 57%. Based on a lot of reviews I’ve been reading lately, it would seem many folks out there are confusing high alcohol content single malts with ‘cask strength’ single malts. ‘Cask strength’ is a natural occurrence, wherein the whisky is pulled from the barrel and not reduced in strength before hitting the bottle. You often end up with decimal places behind the alcohol percentages on these bottlings. It’s most likely this attribute, more than any other, that leads to the belief that a whisky is at natural barrel strength. In some cases, the distilleries are opting for a higher abv simply as the best vehicle for delivering flavour to the taste buds…and we love ’em for it! Cases in point: Ardbeg Uigeadail at 54.2%, Ardbeg Corryvreckan at 57.1% and Amrut Intermediate Sherry at 57.1%. All manufactured strengths, and arguably a good part of the reason these whiskies are so universally adored.
Talisker 57° North has been carefully engineered to an even keel 57% abv. I kinda think some of the other big producers could take a lesson from what Diageo has done here. Higher abv equals greater flavour concentration. If your whisky is good, wouldn’t you want the drinker to experience all of it’s subtleties and nuances? And at the end of the day, if I’m in the mood for something a little lighter, I’ll add my own water, thank you very much. But hey…this is Talisker we’re speaking of. Who the hell wants less flavour?
Let’s talk about one other whisky geek subject here before we get into tasting notes. Terroir. The idea that ambient location adds to the character of the spirit (i.e. the soil, the barley strain, salty seaspray or oceanic breezes, etc). A contestable subject, to be sure, and one that we’ll dedicate a much greater wordcount to at some point in the coming days, but it has a relevance here I want to quickly touch on. I’m only going to use one particular talking point here to illustrate my case: It’s very interesting to note how many of the coastal distilleries (Pulteney, Talisker, Scapa, Highland Park, the Islays, etc) boast a profoundly seaside-ish and briny character. Even those that end up partially (or fully!) matured on the mainland. Hmmmm. Curious, I’d say. Anyway…something for you to mull over.
Let’s get back to the malt at hand. This is big and bold Talisker, redolent of all of the qualities that make Talisker special. I love seeing it given a supercharged outlet for its exuberance. This is a whisky that likes to be loud…and should be heard that way!
Nose: Creamy. Chocolate. Pepper, peat and ash. Smoke and a bit of over-heated rubber (have you ever blown a radiator hose?). Chilis. Lemon. Wet hay and other farmyard aromas. Brine. Shoe polish on good leather. Ginger. There are also some sweeter fruit notes that develop over time. Kissing cousins to Port Charlotte and Longrow.
Palate: Big, beautiful arrival. Pepper up front. Immediately sweet, in a ju-jube kinda way. Almost fruitcake-like too. Peat comes next, on waves of salt water, smoke and lemon juice. A bit more rubber now. Surprisingly not a really long development or linger, but great throughout.
Thoughts: This is like a concentrated variant on what Talisker 10 used to be a few years back. NAS, but firing on all cylinders in its (assumed) relative youth. Very well put together dram.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt