Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hoist The Main Sail - Talisker On The High Seas

A whisky sling, a captain's hat, and Talisker Skye
The 3rd March 2015 saw myself and fellow Dramfull members boarding a Talisker racing yacht to sail the high seas of Sydney Harbour with a chalice of maritime love slung from my neck. It is one of those moments you just sit back and think "heck this is going to be a jolly good spot of fun eh chaps!".  I will also make no apologies about the rash amount of sea faring phrases embedded into this little story you are about to endure.

The designated meeting place for festivities to begin was Pier 9, Darling Harbour where the Talisker vessel named Spirit was moored ready for boarding for a 4pm cast off. Spirit competed in the 1992 America’s Cup and is one of 2 boats currently sponsored by Talisker. Watching the yacht pull in and with the Cargo Bar but a stones throw away, many of us were early turn outs only naturally cask our lines in for a few sneaky schooners to swap nautical sea shanties prior.

At the dock fellow Sydney Dramfull members and myself were greeted by our host Sean Baxter, National Johnnie Walker & Classic Malts Ambassador. May I interrupt at this point to take my hat off to Sean's nautical attire. Though I aimed to at least have some tailoring to the occasion, Sean had all the class needed to say “I am boat, here me moor”. I think I may have beat him with the captain's hat but that was a really nice lapel pin he was displaying and that jacket with the knee length shorts was spot on for the occasion. Classy outfits aside we were not knowing exactly what to expect before casting off. On inspection Sean issued us all with (for lack of better words) a Dram Sling or as fellow D.T.W.C. member remarked Dram Chaps. This ingenious dram chalice holding device was very reminiscent of a big game fish harness of old. So with deck shoes tightened I crowned my obligatory captain’s hat and stepped aboard to be momentarily enveloped with nostalgic images of Ernest Hemingway setting out for a spot of hard fought marlin hooking. Truly though was that a ships bell I could hear echoing the cry of gulls in the distance? Were the skies darkening to a bracing wind whipping around my flapping trouser legs as the soles of my shoes crunch against the salted decking? Is that fog I see drifting though with a glimpse of a mermaid… yes a mermaid nested on that rocky outcrop? Aye let us rattle the shackles of these ominous signs and be away. We have whisky to swill. May the spirit of Talisker protect us all.

Aboard the Spirit
Taking to the water we motored out into the harbour before the salty Dramfull crew were required to assist in hoisting the main sail. Hard earned work delivers a hard earned thirst, so with a yearning for a dram Sean launched the official tasting of the day, the soon to be released Talisker Skye. Talisker have been wading into the realm of NAS for some time now so it is no surprise we now see a entry level Talisker NAS on Australian shores. On query it is projected the pricing for the Skye will be at the same or marginally below that of the classic Talisker 10yo and will make it into major retail chains. Quick to add Sean expected that this whisky may not be so appealing for the already embedded Talisker appreciator. From my own tasting notes and experience I concur this view as you discover reading on.

Sean Baxter, National Johnnie Walker & Classic Malts Ambassador
Talisker Skye had a colour of flame yellow which I thought to be considerably different to that of other Talkers I have partaken in. On the nose was a balance of sweet smoke, vegetive bog, salts and iodine. Even though Sean expressed his view of typical Talisker sulphurs I failed to sense it. The taste was an initial sweetness that quickly swung to dry woods and smokes with a high spice prickle in the fore of the palate that built to a unfortunate bitterness. Bypassing the aft palate altogether the finish was weak and veiled with the spice bitterness building continuously to a permeating level. No sooner had this bitterness almost become annoying than was to recede leaving a rather one dimensional watered down sensation towards the mid and fore palate. Noting this whisky is bottled at the typical Talisker 45.8% ABV the lack of complexity would certainly make you think it was bridging the 40% marker. The nose was certainly more excitable than the taste. After the chalice was drained, the spirit that remained cupped gave a scent of pleasant cold charcoal. The Skye certainly lacks the complexity and character the classic Talisker 10yo shoulders, though I can certainly see how this whisky can be used as a bridge into the maritime effect so many of use love. The Skye is a very quick drinking, safe whisky. I personally like to get gripped by a whisky and would prefer a slow mature expression over what the Skye delivers. May I even say that this is a Talisker displaying tides out characteristics against other family expressions and its target entry target market is clearly defined. I do believe though I need to return again to a sample of the Skye as the environment itself, with the sea air brushing past, compounded by a plastic chalice, may have had a clear effect on my taste experience.

Just some wee drams to see us through the storm
Following our Talisker Skye tasting, Sean steered us through some of more mainstream Talisker expressions match up to a banquet of plump fresh Sydney Rock Oysters. Whiskies on taste were: Talisker 10yo; Talisker Storm; Talisker Port Ruighe (pronounced Port Ree); Talisker 18yo (delivered from Sean’s personal stock). The maritime effect found in Talisker whiskies would make one assume seafood is a even match. For me I have found, like many flavours, if they a similar profile then they cancel each other out. Previous experience told me that Talisker is of no exception to this nullification rule but I am quite partial to a fresh oyster, so when these suckers came out I was not shy of a few. True to form I found  the oysters hidden behind the Talisker profiles until they were matched with the Port Ruighe. Certainly the subtle notes of port and smoke really do emphasised the oyster experience. I would be very interested to see Talisker matched more towards a Kilpatrick style oyster allowing the crisp bacon fats and salts to meander with the whisky and emphasis the more smokey notes. I have made a port style Kilpatric before to astounding success but never with a port finished maritime whisky… mmmmmmm I might just have to try this.

Unfortunately all great voyagers must pass and no sooner had we claimed our last whisky prize then "land ho!" was cried. Finding our legs once more we departed the Spirit having our Whisky Chaps safely secured back in Davy Jones' Locker. Bummer I was really hoping I could have kept that whisky sling.

Overall it was a fantastic experience and ever so grateful for the opportunity to attended. The idea of the adventurous whisky tasting is an excellent concept and something I have been hoping to see more of here in Sydney for a long time. It brings both a personal element, shared experience, and memorable moment to reminisce on while enjoying a dram of your favourite Talisker whisky. Kudos to Diageo and Sean. May I suggest a 5 day 5 whisky cruise through the Whitsundays as a step up? Ahoy!

The Baron

D.T.W.C. was invited as a guest this event. All views and opinions are our own unless otherwise stated.