Ardbeg Corryvreckan vs Talisker 18

December 3rd, 2012

Due to various touring responsibilities it’s been a fair while since I was able to turn my hand to what really matters – whisky deathmatch, but finally I have time to give the third of our second round face-offs the attention it deserves, and ARRRRRR but it’s a mouth-pummeling heavyweight clash between two tough and hairy, smoky, savoury, salty sea-dogs in Ardbeg Corryvreckan and Talisker 18.  Shiver me timbers.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan – 57.1% ABV, £61.95

Talisker 18 – 45.8% ABV, £58.49

Ardbeg Corryvreckan employed demonic arts to overcome Bruichladdich Infinity in a tightly fought Islay grudge match.  That Bruichladdich surely was a great all-rounder, but the Corryvreckan was something else.  It smelled, “like paint stripper meets wet earth at a barbecue and they have beautiful salty babies together” and upon tasting, “the magic portals are flung wide and the mysteries of the cosmos revealed.  An utterly strange array of tastes.  You know that sweet Willy Wonker does that’s a whole meal in one go?  Like that.  Ruggedly savoury and fearsomely dry.  There’s pine in there, liquorice, maybe?  A hint of those disinfectant capsules you used to get in urinals.  Not that I ever ate one, but, you know … then there’s spicy pepperiness, coffee and bitter chocolate, smoke throughout and lingering long after.  Odd, odd, odd, but in a good way.  A very good way.  The very opposite of easy drinking – challenging, difficult, baffling, endlessly surprising.  An evil genius.  A dark lord.  The most eccentric of Bond villains.  A mighty sorcerer driven insane by experiments with forces from beyond our dimension.”  It is the strongest, most expensive, and most uncompromisingly challenging whisky among our twelve contestants.

Talisker 18 was in fact the loser in a no-holds-barred seaside duel with fellow Island giant Highland Park 18, but came through as a wildcard.  I said of the Talisker, “Very rich, almost gloopy, very fruity, very — KERPOW!  It explodes in your face with a ripping broadside.  Huge spiciness, almost hot chilli-like fires of Mount Doom.  Muscular, merciless, a hairy-chested, tattoo-forearmed pirate captain.  Avast ye, me hearties.  Big smoke.  Big beach bonfires.  Everything about it is big.  Ships aflame, down to Davy Jones’s Locker, full fathom five thy father lies.  Almighty, tongue tingling finish with a lingering memory of smokey salt.  Zounds.”  Truly it is a warming bear hug of a whisky and there’s a lot to like – the very thing for an arctic expedition, but for me the Highland Park had the edge in cleverness, subtlety and versatility.

Ouch.  Two powerful and uncompromising rivals here.  Those with mouth ulcers need not apply, and I suspect a good deal of palate cleansing will be required between tastings.  But a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do…

The Corryvreckan has perhaps lost some of its crazy edge with further sampling.  At least you go in knowing something of what to expect, but there’s something new every time.  That strange heat, that fearsome atacama dryness, that earthy seaweed raw alcohol tang, that baffling mixture of tastes with the dark chocolate bitter coffee finish.  Some of its unholy power is in the high strength, but even with a dash of water it takes no prisoners and makes no apologies and dares the witchfinder general to hunt it down and burn it at the stake if he thinks he’s hard enough.

In this intimidating, if not to say insane company, the Talisker seems almost easygoing.  A friendly, jovial, welly-booted old merchant seaman.  More Captain Birdseye than Captain Blackbeard.  More peppery than super spicy.  It’s amazingly heavy and gloopy, given its lower strength, though 46% is certainly nothing to complain about.  It remains a very nice, classy whisky, the perfect thing for a chilly winter evening before the fire with a tartan blanket pulled up to your neckbeard.  It’s been unlucky in its opponents, without a doubt.  It’s certainly more drinkable than the Ardbeg but in the end the gobsmacking strangeness of Corryvreckan cannot be caged, cannot be controlled, understand this as you die, ever pathetic, ever fools!

Bonus points to anyone who can identify the source of that classic quote…


Posted in whisky deathmatch by Joe Abercrombie on December 3rd, 2012.

16 comments so far

  • Rick says:

    Was that from Baldur’s Gate II?

  • TheShrike says:

    If you could get paid to be a whisky critic would you ever write books again?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Rick gets total extra points.

  • Darren says:

    Laphroiag ftw.

  • Thaddeus says:

    Talisker seems a bit unlucky. It sounds great, got drawn against an even better whisky, got through with a wild card, and then got drawn against an even better whisky again!

    Glad to see these make a return.

  • Michael says:

    Thank the heavens we got all that book nonsense out of the way, back to what matters.

    The map on the back wall looks great by the way.

  • Luke Scull says:

    Yeah – that was a quote by Irenicus, uttered during a cutscene where he escaped from his cell in Spellhold and proceeded to Power Word, Kill every poor sod in sight. One of my favourites, right up with there with “My hotel’s as clean as an elven arse”.

  • Jerome says:

    Talisker for me, I tried the Corryvreckan once and it fair stripped my mouth! By the way I see what you mean by “Gloopy”! Good choice of word!

  • Rick says:

    Woohoo – points! Get in! :o)

  • Nathan Adam says:

    Baldurs gate 2!!! Probably my all time favorite game. Ever. Period. Minsc was something special 🙂

  • TheShrike says:

    On a somewhat related note, Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition was just recently released. Has anyone checked it out yet? I’m curious about giving it another go at high resolution.

  • bobthebuilder says:

    Whats the map in the background ?

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    It’s Dave Senior’s original map of Styria from Best Served Cold.

  • bobthebuilder says:

    Ahh. And i was thinking you were giving us some covert hints about the next book.
    Guess there’s such a thing as being too realistic

    Bonus points for guessing where this quote is from 😀

  • Duncan says:

    I’ve got a bottle of Corryvreckan on the way – looking forward to it!

    Joe, I trust you enjoyed your medicinal Uigeadail at the Hobart launch 😉

  • Steve says:

    AH!!! knocked out my favorite again 😛

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