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Monday, December 5, 2022

Only The Stout Survive

For better or worse, Diageo is the reigning monarch of scotch whisky.  Close to 30% of all distilleries in Scotland are owned by Diageo.  Caol Ila, Dalwhinnie, Lagavulin, Oban, Talisker, all Diageo.  Heavyweights aside, most of the Diageo clan have the unglamorous responsibility of providing juice for their large-scale blends like Johnnie Walker, J&B, and Bell’s.  How Diageo came to be is an interesting story.

Distillers Company Limited (DCL) controlled close to 75% of all scotch whisky holdings up until the early 1960s.  When scotch dwindled in popularity, so did their grip on power.  By 1984, their share was less than 20%.  Guinness smelled blood, and aggressively took over the company in 1986.  In the past, DCL would use its influence to keep prices down, Guinness (United Distillers) did the opposite.  They wanted to make scotch synonymous with luxury.  Blue Label and The Classic Malts range were introduced at this time.  The company was renamed Diageo in 1997.

Talisker is one of only a couple distilleries in the Diageo stable that bottles their stuff above 43%.  Before you start jumping with joy, almost all their expressions are chill filtered and coloured, an all-too-familiar pattern when it comes to this multinational.  Wait, there’s more.  Most Talisker is matured at a centralized monstrosity of a warehouse on the mainland.  Talisker may be made by the sea, but it sure ain’t raised there.  Impairments aside, Talisker makes good whisky, like the Distillers Edition.

Diageo launched the Distillers Edition range in the late 1990s.  They’re basically finished versions of their popular single malts.  Talisker Distillers Edition is the 10 year old standard Talisker with an Amoroso sherry finish.  Sherry, for those of you who don’t know, is Spanish wine fortified with grape spirit.  Amoroso is Oloroso with a dash of Pedro Ximénez.  It gets its name from workers who’d stop at El Maestro Sierra bodega to pick up some sherry before heading home.  They’d ask for Pedro Ximénez to be added so their wives would find it more loveable.  Amoroso means “loving” in Spanish.

If given enough time to develop in the glass and bottle, Talisker Distillers Edition can be pretty special.  Talisker’s peppery, coastal character will emerge in due course, you just need to get through those first few sherry-dominated pours.  This is a wonderfully complex whisky with a nice mouthfeel despite its chill filtration handicap.  Worthy of your time, as long as you give it some.

Happy dramming,


Instead of dying she shall merely fall into a profound slumber that will last a hundred years. -  Charles Perrault,  The Sleeping Beauty in ...