An Internet search for Dark Storm will eventually bring you to Talisker, but not before drawing your attention to a straight-to-TV movie starring Stephen Baldwin. It's certainly an evocative name. Originally a travel retail offering designed to highlight the effect of heavily charred casks Dark Storm aims to portray '.. the wild, untamed spirit of a full-blown storm at sea.' Let's see....
Nose: The smoke and char is immediately present, but for me seems less maritime and more earthy. Rather like bitumen. There's a real resinous/wood sap note to this from the barrel charring. Joining the party is pepper, sweet spices and a background note of soured lemons.
Taste: Rich and mouth filling with the oak spicing right up front. The smoke is still of the earthy type, almost meaty in nature and is arguably pretty robust. On the fruit spectrum we're into dried fruits, particularly oranges and apricots. It's quite punchy and rather acrid, however development does bring out some sweetness from vanilla. Lots of vanilla in fact. Overall, the combination of heavily burnt oak smoke, dried fruits and vanillin makes for a highly flavourful experience.
Finish: Short to medium. I've seen reviews of long and lingering finishes for this one, but these are confusing the burning off of the raw alcohol itself (sorry chaps, that's not technically part of the finish). Quite drying with a focus again on oak and oak spicing. Rather a touch too acrid though.
On the one hand Talisker Dark Storm is packed full of flavours. On the other, those flavours are not necessarily complex nor completely integrated. The charring is certainly successful and comes across strongly, however it gives the dram such a level of astringency that I believe that a good portion of first-fill casks have had to be used to impart a huge kick of vanilla in an attempt to soften this. Certainly, it takes the edge off some of the astringency, but the high-dose vanilla doesn't totally work in harmony with the charring for me. That said, Talisker Dark Storm is very reasonable priced and comes in litre bottles so if you're looking for value and punchy flavours, don't be afraid to head in to the eye of this storm.