This new whisky is the oldest ever single malt to be released by the Talisker distillery from the Scottish isle of Skye. The Talisker Xpedition Oak 43 years old has been created from just 10 casks, with all being filled in the late 1970s. These have yielded just 1,830 bottles in total - a reference to the year that the distillery was founded. The whisky was finished for a short period in casks made from oak staves that travelled 3,264 miles across the Atlantic Ocean on the yacht of explorer James Aitken when he was taking part in The Atlantic Challenge. A piece of stave is included within the each presentation box.
Talisker was founded in 1830 by two local brothers, Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill, and is located in the hamlet of Carbost on the western coast of Skye. Talisker is currently owned by Diageo and has an annual production capacity of 3.3 million litres. Worldwide sales have risen by over 140% in the last decade and it is now safely within the Top 10 for worldwide single malt sales. Despite its remote location it is also one of the most visited distilleries in Scotland with over 60,000 visitors per year.
The Talisker Xpedition Oak 43 years old is bottled at the natural cask strength of 49.3% ABV and will be available in specialist and luxury retailers in selected global markets - these include Australia, China, Europe, Singapore, Taiwan and the USA. A bottle will cost £3,500/ $4,860 US.
Our tasting notes
The colour is deep gold and the nose is highly aromatic. First come aromas of cinder toffee and green apple, followed by golden syrup and candle wax. Underneath are further aromas of cedarwood, delicate warming spices and something savoury - this is most reminiscent of old leather and dry Autumn leaves. A final hint of bitter orange oil and black pepper round things off.
On the palate this whisky is very expressive and vibrant for something of this age. It is full bodied and feels viscous but with an instant peppery heat. As this spikiness fades, other notes are allowed through. These include plenty of golden syrup, heather honey and toffee to begin with. These are followed by notes of stewed apple, milk chocolate and a hint of saltiness. The combination is reminiscent of mildly salted caramel.
Underneath, and underpinning everything, is that savoury quality from the nose. This has the old leather and Autumn leaf-like feel again, but combines beautifully with the warming wood and baking spices - think of the cedarwood again, toasted oak, cinnamon and a pinch of powdered ginger. Late notes of candle wax and juicy tropical fruits (imagine peach and pineapple especially) add even further depth and complexity.
The finish is deliciously long and warming. The savoury notes accentuate everything - the sweetness, the fruitiness and those tropical notes - and make the finish seem even longer. A lingering peppery and gingerbread-like warmth lingers ever longer. Truly luxurious.
What's the verdict?
Even in our line of work and with our blogging history, we do not get to sample whiskies like this Talisker every day. This 43 years old is exquisite. It does not have the punch of younger or no age statement expressions, but it has a sophistication and complexity that only comes with long maturation in good oak casks.
The Talisker Xpedition Oak 43 years old is nearly as old as we are and is clearly not a 'whisky for everyone' due to the price. But it is a whisky for someone and we hope they appreciate and enjoy it, rather than putting it on a shelf as a status symbol. It deserves that as it is a fabulous whisky and a great example how an old whisky can maintain its vibrancy and character.