Cognac cask finishes are having a bit of a moment in the Scotch whisky world. There’s Glen Moray’s excellent value Twisted Vine, Tomintoul’s Cognac Cask release, and now stand back because Talisker has just launched a Cognac cask finish called: Talisker x Parley – Wilder Seas.

Cognac and whisky can be a really good fit especially for fruitier single malts like Glen Moray. In fact, the story goes that one of the great Speyside malts used to have a good dose of Cognac in it which is why it aged so well. We can neither confirm nor deny this rumour but it makes a lot of sense. 

With their layers of dried fruit, nuts and tobacco, Cognac and sherried Speyside whiskies taste quite similar, especially long-aged examples. But what about Cognac and smoky whisky? Well, we will find out. But first a little bit on the background to this new Talisker.

Talisker x Parley – Wilder Seas 

This gets its rather unwieldy name as its another collaboration between the Isle of Skye Distillery and a wildlife charity called Parley for the Oceans. £3 for every bottle made will go to Parley. As part of its environmental credentials, Wilder Seas comes in a bottle made from recycled glass with ceramic decoration in place of a standard label, and comes without a cardboard carton. 

Previously the two brands have got together on some extremely lavish single malts: the 44 year old Tales from the Deep and the 45 Year Old Glacial Edge. Happily Wilder Seas is a more affordable proposition. It’s a NAS single malt finished in XO Cognac casks and bottled at 48.6% ABV.

Drinking Talisker Wilder Seas

Tastings Talisker Wilder Seas

I am a massive Talisker fan. The ten year old is probably my favourite single malt. In fact, I prefer it to almost all other Taliskers. If I had one bottle to take to my proverbial desert island, it wouldn’t be the 18 year old or the Distiller’s Edition. I’ve been fortunate enough to try very old Taliskers, and I think the ones that work the best have been aged largely in bourbon casks, like the latest Prima & Ultima 46 year old. In short, I don’t want too much fortified wine getting in the way of my Talisker. Having said that, I did enjoy the latest Special Release aged in port casks which almost tasted a bit like Bowmore. 

So how did the smoky spicy profile of Talisker cope with a (undisclosed) finishing period in Cognac casks? The short answer is very well. The Cognac influence is quite subtle bringing toffee and a peachy fruitiness to those classic sea spray and vanilla notes. It’s more noticeable on the palate with a distinct dark cherry note alongside wood smoke and that classic Talisker spiciness. The alcohol is just right at 48.6% ABV. Overall, it’s good, though I’m not sure it unseats the 10 year old as my whisky of choice when I exiled to a desert island.

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Bacon crisps on the nose, touch of iodine and some saline notes, toffee, water brings out a stone fruit fruitiness, and vanilla.

Palate: Peppery and spicy, wood smoke, toffee, and dark cherry. 

Finish: Long and spicy, that peppery note goes on and on.

Talisker x Parley – Wilder Seas is available from Master of Malt. Click on link for prices and to buy.