It was a dark and stormy night on the Isle of Skye, and the peat fire is burning low. Shivering in the cold, our heroine sits crouched, barely sheltered against the fury of the winter North Sea. Out of the corner of her eye she spots a gleaming in the dark. Is it the bog spirits coming to claim another victim? Screwing up her courage, she takes a deep breath through her fear and lunges across the dying fire to find... a new Scotch from Talisker!
Apologies, but it's hard not to get carried away by the brooding name and branding for the latest offering from Diageo's Talisker distillery. Situated on the windswept Isle of Skye, the distillery has long had an isolated, romantic image. And with the release of Storm, the team may have felt the need to ratchet up the drama to support the launch of the distillery's newest no age statement (NAS) whisky.
Releasing whiskies without age statements is a growing yet controversial trend among distilleries, a move away from 10 year, 12 year, 18 year, etc., offerings. Ardbeg arguably popularized the practice, with their cult hit expressions such as Airigh Nam Beist, Uigeadail, and the recent Ardbog.
The movement has been met with mixed feelings from connoisseurs and critics, skeptical of the trend as a way to cash in on the current boom in demand for whisky despite the limited stocks of older aged malts at most distilleries. While that is certainly a very real concern, we tend to feel that the proof is in the pudding. Age statements are great for communicating how old the whiskies in the bottle are, but as we see time and again, age does not necessarily equal quality, or perhaps more importantly, value.
All this to say, there's a right way and a wrong way to do a NAS offering. So how does Storm stack up?
Billed as "an expression as unique as the dramatic terrain of the island from where it hails," Storm is bottled at 91.6 proof and pours a glinting gold. The aroma is quite impressive, with deep honey and fresh floral notes blending nicely with a light peat and smoke presence. Tropical fruit and light ocean brine serve to balance out the whisky's sweet scent. It's definitely a youthful aroma, with a little flare of alcohol, but overall the effect is invigorating.
The whisky's flavor starts out mellow with sweet malt and fruit but quickly takes a turn for the spicy and powerful as the peat, smoke, and pepper begin to overwhelm the more delicate notes. Finishing spicy, peppery, and smoky, the Storm passes quickly. Compared to Talisker's flagship 10 year old, Storm hits stronger, with a heavier emphasis on peat and smoke to balance the sweeter notes. The finish is the only misstep, lacking in lingering complexity and expansiveness of the 10 year.
It's difficult to pick a favorite between the two. It really comes down to a matter of preference, as they are both very well crafted whiskies. Storm brings a welcome new perspective on the malt but doesn't outshine the original. We do wish that it was priced a little lower—listing around $70 a bottle it's actually a bit more expensive than Talisker 10—but at the end of the day it's a strong offering that adds something new to the Talisker lineup—an exciting example of a NAS done right.
Do you have a favorite no-age statement whisky?
About the author: Andrew Strenio is a lover of all things potable. Since sneaking his grandmother's bourbon balls, he's moved on to touring distilleries and sipping snifters. He works by day making documentary television and films for an independent production company in Brooklyn.
Whisky sample provided for review consideration.