Talisker 1986 21 Years Old ‘Secret Stills’ (Gordon & MacPhail)
Some distilleries don’t allow their name to be printed on the label of independent bottlers, which is why Gordon & MacPhail came up with the Secret Stills range. Not that a simple mention of Isle of Skye isn’t enough to figure out that this is a Talisker, they also opted for a numeric code (1.2 in this case) like the Scotch Malt Whisky Society has been doing for years.
I don’t know if the Secret Stills series is still alive, as the last bottlings dates from almost five years ago. And even when it was more actively used by Gordon & MacPhail, they still only bottled about two dozen of these, which is nothing in the grand scheme of Gordon & MacPhail things.
I won a sample of this particular bottling over three years ago. Yes, you read that right, I won it 😛 How? By finishing second in the Blind Tasting Competition of 2014. It has been waiting in my sample drawer for quite some time, but now it is finally time to find out what this richly sherried Talisker is all about.
Talisker 1986 21 Years Old ‘Secret Stills’ (45%, Gordon & MacPhail, C#1361+63)
Nose: First impression is that of a very old school whisky. Are we sure this isn’t from the 1970s or 1960s? Sweet sherry, with musty dunnage warehouse notes. Lots of leather and subtle notes of menthol, while there’s some peat in the background, as well a feint aroma of salty seaweed. Oranges and some light milk chocolate too.
Taste: Leather and tobacco, with subtle campfire smoke and iodine, followed by aniseed and menthol. This is insanely good. There’s some sweet treacle to balance it all out, as well as a nice peppery edge. Let’s make that chili peppers even.
Finish: Lingering notes of tobacco and sherry, as well as a medicinal quality.
Is this the best Talisker I’ve ever tasted? I think so. Wow, what a powerhouse of a whisky. I don’t even think it matters this was watered down to 45 percent. I’m in love!
Thijs is a spirits writer and accredited liquorist from The Netherlands. He runs the blog Words of Whisky and contributes to a number of Dutch and international publications.