the whisky lounge - a journal tracking a whisky maturation project involving a newly-acquired oak cask and a significant amount of patience

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Clash of the Titans

Harry Hamlin had better watch out

I decided to be wild and crazy this week, and compare the 5-week-old Whisky Works whisky to a Talisker 10. As I've mentioned many a time before, I quite like Talisker. I quite like whiskies from western distilleries in general, but I have a soft spot for our friend from Skye. While not my number one whisky, it's one that I can always come back to and never be disappointed.

The nose of the Talisker is drier. It's a lot less sweet, and the sweetness is herbal. It's definitely plant-based rather than just sugary, but it's not a fruity or floral sweetness. Like grass, or hay, or clover. Some I guess might say it's got more of an iodine tinge to it, but I haven't made a habit of smelling iodine since Grade 11 chemistry class, so I'm not really sure if that's what it is.

The Whisky Works, which on its own smells more of toffee now than fruit, changes in this comparison. The fruit comes forward on the nose, making it closer to raisins, dried cherries and the like. The toffee is still clearly there, but the fruit's more prevalent. Both the Whisky Works and the Talisker hold their own in comparison, but they're remarkably different.

The taste comparison is stunning. They couldn't be any different, but they're both about what I'd consider to be the same quality. The Talisker's medicinal smoke really stands out against the Whisky Works, but the Whisky Works has so much more depth at the sweet end of things. I would describe the Talisker as simpler than the Whisky Works, though I don't want to suggest that it's bland by being simple, or that the Whisky Works is bogged down by too much complexity. There is more going on in the Whisky Works at this point than in the Talisker: more juggling between toffee and raisin and vanilla and chocolate. Less body though: the Talisker has a denser, more oily mouth feel which I quite like. I suspect that, were I to clean my palate more thoroughly between samples, the delicate qualities of the Talisker would be more apparent. With the vestiges of the Whisky Works on my tongue, even after eating a bit of bread to mask it somewhat, the Talisker is still a little overwhelmed.

It's analagous to comparing a doughnut to a fruit brioche. I like them both, but for different reasons, and having one before the other kind of masks the good things about the second one.

Give the Whisky Works another week or three to cool off the alcoholic spiciness, and things will be different, I'm sure. But as it is now, I'm quite happy with the way it stacks up against one of my favourite drams.

I'm already wishing it was next weekend so I could sample it again without guilt. :-)

Until then,

Ian

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