This week sees another island whisky, this time from Skye – situated off the west coast of Scotland, a little north of Islay. Talisker 57° North is named for the latitude of the distillery, but it’s also bottled at a robust 57% ABV.
It’s a nice golden colour in the glass. Unsurprisingly, the nose is all about that alcohol at first; give it a little time to clear though, and the character starts to show through – vanilla, toffee and a touch of iodine. Adding water, as ever, cuts through that alcohol and frees up the more subtle aromas – some gentle, fleeting smoke and light, almost perfumed floral notes.
Those toffee vanilla notes come through in the mouth as well, along with a much more pronounced peat smoke. You can certainly taste that 57%, but despite the intensity it manages to remain sweet and smooth. Some pepper comes in towards the end but only briefly; for all that intensity this is a whisky with quite a short finish.
Water reduces the intensity, making it more of a drinking than a sipping whisky. The flavours are still all there – the sweetness, the smoke, that pepper kick at the end – but they’re more reserved.
In either form, it’s delicious – I’m honestly not sure whether it’s better with or without the water. With water, I miss the raw intensity of the neat dram, but the control that comes with it makes it much easier to enjoy by the mouthful.