Laphroaig comes in about 13 varieties, including 15, 18, and 25 year old bottles, but the standard whisky most people are familiar with is this 10 year old variety. Prince Charles is perhaps the most famous person to enjoy a dram of Laphroaig. In fact, the emblem on the bottle is is Royal Warrant, making Laphroaig the only whisky to bear a royal coat of arms.
Talisker Storm comes from the Talisker distillery, the only one on the famed Isle of Skye, the largest and northernmost of the Inner Hebrides. Three other blended whiskies come from Skye, but they are distilled elsewhere. Talisker was founded in 1830, and comes in about 7 varieties, but is not nearly as well known or as widely available as Laphroaig. Still, it has had its fans throughout the years. Robert Louis Stevenson mentions the drink in his poem, "The Scotsman's Return from Abroad":
At last, across the weary faem,
Frae far, outlandish pairts I came. 20
On ilka side o’ me I fand
Fresh tokens o’ my native land.
Wi’ whatna joy I hailed them a’--
The hilltaps standin’ raw by raw,
The public house, the Hielan’ birks, 25
And a’ the bonny U. P. kirks!
But maistly thee, the bluid o’ Scots,
Frae Maidenkirk to John o’ Grots,
The king o’ drinks, as I conceive it,
Talisker, Isla, or Glenlivet! 30
Talisker Storm was first released in 2013. It does not come with an age marking, but other drinkers have compared it favorably with Talisker's 10 year old whisky. The age marking on a bottle of scotch refers to the age of the youngest whisky used in a bottle. Since whiskies by law must be aged at least 3 years, we can deduce that Talisker Storm is a combination of whiskies ranging from 3-30 years old. The difference between a single malt like the whiskies being compared today, and a blend like Johnny Walker, is that a single malt is produced from a single distillery, while a blend is a combination of whiskies from several distilleries. Most casual whisky drinkers confuse "single malt" with "single cask," where the latter refers to whisky pulled from a single barrel and bottled.
Talisker is owned by Diageo, a large British company holding many breweries and distilleries around the world.
Laphroaig is distinctly darker in color than Talisker Storm, and has the heavier body to go along with it.
Nose: Smoke, peat
Taste: Dense smoke and burning peat, iodine, lemon peel, salty, carmel finish.
Nose: Dried seaweed, ocean beach, smoke.
Taste: Smoke, oak, orange peel, notes of hay, mildly sweet, with a salty finish.
Recommendation: Both are delicious whiskies, and I have no qualms about recommending either: Laphroaig is much heavier and more intense, not for the light-hearted. Talisker provides a more accessible introduction to island whisky, but lacks some of the smoky, peaty punch of Laphroaig.
Have a preference or other favorite island Scotch? Leave a comment!