Alternative names for distilleries are fairly commonplace. There’ a raft of substitutes for Glenfarclas - Blairfindy, Probably Speyside’s Finest and Ballindalloch (though this will no doubt be utilised less seeing as there’s now another distillery of the same name). Many others exist across the Scottish distilleries - denoting teaspooned malts (such as Wardhead and Westport etc), resulting from industry chatter (Beast of Dufftown) or often because the distillery in question wants to protect their brand name for their OBs alone. This is not a new practice and has resulted in independent bottlers having to create new and sometimes less than vague monikers for their single malts and blends. Possibly my favourite comes courtesy of Douglas Laing in the form of ‘Director’s Tactical Selection’ – not the hardest to guess, especially when bottles come specifying ‘distilled on Skye’.
It seems that for the early part of the 1980’s, Talisker were exceptionally tight on issuing stock to independent bottlers. From 1980 to 1985 I can only find a mere 19 bottles produced for the entire five year period - compare that to 2017 (36) and 2018 (29) for a stark demonstration of the current rude health of the industry compared to the times of the last great slump.
The only Taliskers produced from 1980 distillate seem to be from Douglas Laing’s Old Malt Cask range (now owned by Hunter Laing following a split in the company in 2013) – all of them were produced under the Director’s Tactical Selection moniker, ranging from 19 up to 25 years of age. As such, you won’t tend to see many of these knocking around – and they sell for a pretty penny on the secondary market.
Our Tactical OMC was drawn from a sherry butt (DL 1270) laid down in December of 1980. 569 bottles were produced in July of 2006 at an ABV of 50%.
Nose: Rather austere and with plenty of old wood influence – lacquered wood panels and polished mahogany. A surprisingly amount of fruitiness has developed after two and half decades of maturation – ripe pineapples, peaches and overripe almost fermenting oranges. The Talisker DNA is just about perceptible – salinity, white pepper and exceedingly wispy smoke – heavily edited down over time into a background supporting note – but still presenting with some crystalline coastal minerality. Hay, brown sugars and balsamic sharpness support providing sweetness and tang. The addition of water requires care – whilst adding notes of sunflower oils and red liquorice, it muddies the composition, reducing the top note definition.
Taste: The arrival takes the profile of the nose and ups the ante with a barrage of teak oil, polished ebony, dusty dry books and leather armchairs. Pineapple and orange (sharp, stood, liqueur-like) sit with mangos and stepped tea. Salinity and pepper still prevail but are very much on the down low now – they’re tempered by a sweet and sour citric tang, gentle cloves and a developing herbalness that’s partly old oak, party cut garden stems. I cannot advise any volume of dilution here – even a drop seems to cause drowning, reducing the body and mouthfeel immediately. Lovely at 50%, but super fragile.
Finish: Long with gentle pepperiness, and a progressive fade of fruits.
Well-aged indy Talisker is always a treat – there's a vast diversity of forms that the spirit can take – often throwing up some surprises. This 25 year old Tactical has developed a wonderful fruity vein that sits exceedingly well with its large wood influence. That said, the distillery character has been rather subsumed and 25 years of maturation has resulted in the spirit being highly aquaphobic. An old friend you’re always happy to spend time with, who’s mild mannered but inwardly grumpy.