Talisker’s 44-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Is Distillery’s Oldest & Rarest Whisky Yet

“Perry Mason” star and brand ambassador Matthew Rhys opens up about Talisker’s exquisite new scotch.

(Talisker)

Welsh actor Matthew Rhys is best known for his layered performances in the FX series The Americans and more recently, as the titular character in the HBO series Perry Mason, which returns in 2023 for season two.

Rhys also restored a rare example of the same class of boat that Ernest Hemingway owned, a Wheeler he named “Rarebit,” and with which he offers charters in New York Harbor under the banner of a side business called  Moveable Feast.  

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When he’s not prowling 1930s Los Angeles, re-lacquering teak, or spending time with his family (Rhys is married to his onscreen wife from The Americans, Keri Russell), he’s a spokesperson for Talisker Whisky. Made in the oldest distillery on the remote Scottish island of Skye, Talisker Single Malt whisky is beloved as a well-balanced dram with a moderate amount of peat influence that makes it both delicate and smoky. 

I chatted with Rhys about Talisker’s oldest and rarest edition ever: the just-released “Forests Of The Deep 44.” This 44-year-old whisky is old enough to have its own mid-life crisis. Or, for those of us who can’t buy Hemingway’s boat, possibly cure one. 

(Talisker)

I’ve always thought of you as a serious actor, an actor’s actor. So, what does it say about Talisker that they want this heady actor to be their spokesperson? Is it a particularly contemplative and cerebral whisky?

Like any actor who suffers from crippling imposter syndrome, I’m more intrigued as to why a whisky like Talisker wants to connect itself with me. So, when they approached me, I was more like, “Oh my God, the honor is more bestowed on me.” And I was blown away by their ethos when it comes to the preservation of the oceans.

Were you already a fan of Talisker before you started working with them?

Yeah, it was a whisky I enjoyed anyway. Where it sits flavor-wise is perfect to me. But I also love the fact that they have a desire and drive to preserve the oceans and to bring that knowledge to a wider audience. And it’s not like they just give cash to ocean preservation, they put their money where their mouth is in other ways, like, “We are made by this sea, we will adhere to that ethos, and this is how we will prove it in the most inventive adventurous, exciting ways.”

How did they incorporate their ethos into this new whisky?

They took an incredibly romantic and adventurous idea, where the oak staves were lashed to the deck of a ship and sailed across the Atlantic, so you had all this sea water splashing on these staves. And then they go, “Okay now how can we nail a number of other bases and still deliver a good whisky,” so they go, “Cape of Good Hope, one of the most iconic sailing points in the world that has a famous kelp forest, which brings up the service that kelp does to this planet. Now, how can we incorporate that into an incredible message?”

So, for the people who experience this, if they take away one thing it’s that kelp serves the planet in a significant way––while they are tasting this incredible Scotch that also has this layered maritime theme. All these layers are imbued into one taste. And to me, Talisker is absolutely nailing this multi-level experience where you get an environmental ethos strongly behind it, you get this adventurous story of the making of it, and then you get this unbelievable taste to go with it. 

(Talisker)

I guess it says something about Talisker that they had this rare stock in the warehouse, knowing that they needed to do something special with it, and the fact that they chose to marry that release with this ocean conservation message goes back to your point that they put their money where their mouth is. 

Absolutely. And I think when you see where the distillery is, you understand that they are informed and influenced by the elements in a very real way. 

You are also influenced by the sea, or at least by The Old Man In The Sea, in restoring an antique boat that Hemingway made famous. 

I have to be careful how I define myself, because I just get shot down if I say, “I see myself as a bit of a mariner – no you’re not, you weekend boater.” I am a weekend boater, that’s exactly what I am.

Have you seen Hemingway’s boat, Pilar, in real life in Cuba?

I have these stupid, strange romantic notions that I will take a run down to Cuba and have this religious moment with Pilar. But I don’t know if I will or not, because the trauma of trying to restore an antique Wheeler has almost put me off going to see Pilar, because I hold her 100% responsible for the depths of madness that I’ve gone through. Maybe in a couple of years I’ll come back to my love of her and what she represents to me. 

What is your favorite Talisker whisky other than the 44?

I probably shouldn’t say this, but Talisker 18 is an enormous favorite of mine. 

Does your love of whisky ever get to mix with your acting? 

Yes. Perry Mason is a hard, hard scotch drinker throughout season two, which I was quite happy to inhabit.

About The Liquid

(Talisker)

No cask remains in storage for 44 years unless it is singled out as having special qualities that allow for extreme longevity. Before any finishing, this whisky is the best of the best that has survived every blender’s judgement call since the 1970s. 

Then came the Marine Cask finishing: oak staves were sent alongside an expedition to the kelp forests of the Cape of Good Hope with Parley for the Oceans, Talisker’s conservation partner, picking up a briny influence of salt water and salty air along the way. Upon their return to Scotland, these staves were re-charred to bring out the full character of the journey, using a fire of sea kelp and shavings from these ocean-going staves. Then the staves were re-assembled into barrels to hold the 44-year-old whisky for a finishing period.

It’s a special whisky to begin with, but by finishing it in freshly charred casks made of wood suffused with oceanic elements, a salty-sweet umami layer takes it to an exquisite new level. The result is a rich and complex whisky with briny top notes. Spicy when sipped neat and develops a cooling nature when water is added. Only 1,997 bottles will be released. $4,961

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