…now they’ve added a permanent port-finished NAS expression with the double-entendre of a name, “Port Ruighe”. … Suffice it to say this is NAS Talisker aged in a combination of casks including ex-bourbon, refill European oak, and casks with a “heavy char”. The whisky is then finished in port casks and bottled at Talisker’s standard 45.8% ABV.
Turns out I wasn’t 100% off, as the sample turned out to be Té Bheag (pronounced ‘chey vek’), a blended scotch with a big peated malt component made by Pràban na Linne Ltd. on the Isle of Skye.
Well, that’s Talisker all right. A big, brutish dram with most of the complexity on the nose. It definitely delivers everything you’d expect from nearly-cask-strength Talisker. If you’re already a Talisker fan, then you’re ready to try this.
A nose overly dominant with peat is improved by better balance on the tongue and in the finish. While still less focused and more “dirty” (in the sense of the assorted unpleasant side-effects of peat) than similarly-priced Islays, there is reasonable complexity.
This is akin to 10 year-old Springbank in many ways – from the earthy “not quite smokey” peat, to the industrial oily notes, and the emphasis on barrel char. At around $55, there isn’t a lot of reason to recommend this 10 year-old.
Before you can taste it, though, you’ve got to know how to pick a whisky to try! This post will focus on single-malt scotch, which I think is the best possible place to get your bearings in the wider world of whisky.
Wemyss Malts has a line of romantically-named blended malts in ages 5, 8, and 12 years old. Each includes a ‘key ingredient’ to define its character and justify its name, as well as up to 16 other malts. I tried The Spice King (spices courtesy of a heavy dose of Talisker) at tonight’s K&L Wednesday spirits tasting in Redwood City, CA.
Isle of Skye, despite the name, is a blended scotch containing whisky from several areas of Scotland. Indeed, a proportion of Talisker is represented, as well as a blend of gentler Speyside malts, some Island malt, and some grain whisky. According to the bottler the youngest whisky is 8 years old but the blend contains some “much older” whisky. The blend is aged in an ex-bourbon barrel and bottled at 43% ABV.
The peat flavors that made Islay famous for their intensity here instead get equal billing with sturdy oak and lusciously sweet malt. I could wish a little less bitterness on the tail end, but this is totally Talisker, and substantially more smooth and finessed than the 10 year-old.
With a little research, a little organization, and a little dedication, you can avoid paying ridiculous prices for good whisky.