“An intense Talisker, with a profoundly maritime character, like a warm welcome from a wild Hebridean sea”. So says the marketing spiel on the label on each bottle of Talisker Storm Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Colourful language, but do the contents deliver on the rather breathy description? Read on to find out.
I don’t normally feel the urge to write reviews for whiskies. Unfortunately, I have a very poor sense of smell and, therefore, by extension, a poor sense of taste. I’m envious of people who can detect subtle hints of vanilla and forest fruits with refreshing lemon overtones and a delicate smokiness in anything. I rarely can.
This one, however, is different.
With the first gentle breath as my nose nears the glass, I’m taken back to childhood vacations on the North West coast of Scotland. Dried seaweed crunching underfoot at the high-tide line. Fishing in rockpools at low tide. The prickly machair on bare feet by the Bay of Clachtoll.
My first sip takes me to the fishing harbour at Arbroath on Scotland’s East coast, near where my mother was born. The smell of the sea and the day’s catch fresh in my mind as my grand-parents indulge me in one more trip to the harbour to see the boats.
Another sip and, as the smooth liquid travels around my mouth, I’m transported to my teenage years in the Scouts sailing Wayfarer dinghies in Loch Goil with the salt spray in my face and the feel of salty rime from the unruly ropes as sixteen-year-old me gave younger scouts their first taste of sailing. Often cold. Often wet. Always fun.
I swallow a third sip and, as the slightly peppery tail recedes, I’m reminded of my early career as a navigation engineer on survey vessels, of the ubiquitous smell of salt and the sea that cakes every ship, of weathering North Sea storms in the warmth of my cabin as the sea swallowed my window in a green dim, before releasing it again for its next mouthful. A harsher life.
Perhaps I can’t name the subtle flavours of this dram, but I will remember it as it has reminded me. Maybe I too have been made by the sea.