How do you review a dram that serves as your benchmark? For through it I have endeavored to measure the world of whiskies, to draw the cartography of the water of life, sketching each mountain peak, each valley and dell, the deep lakes and shallow streams. Or perhaps it is better to say that it is a lodestone, and not only for the way that it pulls me in with ferric insistence. Yet it serves more as a compass point than as direction one could follow in search of place. In this way I get a fuller grasp of myself than of any whisky; it is a plumbline into the well of my soul. I am Anny in La Nausée, with Antoine Roquentin as her milestone. Like Anny, I rely on the Talisker to follow the script of various “perfect moments,” aiming to firm up the sallow superfluity of my existence and bring it into crystalline permanence. But the Talisker 10 is neither a jewel nor does it enjewel me; it is the entire firmament into which the heavenly bodies are set like so many gems in the cosmic brooch, a twinkling splendor to please the Great Designer. If I have recourse to myth, it is what the Mic Macs call Gisoolg, the Tahitians Taaro, the Shilluk Juok, and the Vodun Damballah. It’s the bacon in the BLT. But we must strap on the crampons and venture deep into the omphalos, θάλαμος ἔσχατος , to reach the mystery of mysteries. We must see whether we can speak the unspeakable. Perhaps we’ll find that it is really is turtles all the way down. If the last one is holding a glass of Talisker 10, I would believe everything it told me. This is what it says:
“Tiny oysters in scrimshaw imitations of shells, inscribed with runic insults the meaning of which is lost to time. A drop of sherry, two drops of honey, a dash of salt, and a puff of pipe smoke from a heavily-bearded waiter wrapped in seaweed to cover the scales on his ship’s-rope arms. Now the oyster is ready to be eaten. It is nothing less than ambrosia. The finish is a thimble full of Armagnac poured back into the scrimshaw shell, dusted with white and black pepper, with a diffident dip of a flicking skink’s tongue. It quiets the mind and slows the pulse until at last the Harmony of the Spheres can be heard. It’s not ‘Waltzing Matilda’, but a tune no less fitting for the world’s greatest ice cream truck.”
The Talisker 10 is “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”–[Stephen: “Say more here, John.”] [John: “Can’t.”]
Our thanks to Leah Eagel, Alex Conway and Diageo for the sample!