There has been a rash of new distillery construction across Scotland (indeed, across the whole world), and Torabhaig is one of the first of the new wave of single malt distilleries to put whisky onto shelves. The second distillery on the tiny Isle of Skye (after Talisker), Torabhaig was built on the site of 19th century farmstead starting in 2013, with the first spirit flowing in January 2017.
The Torabhaig Legacy Series represents the first batches of whisky from the young distillery, with this first “Inaugural” edition of 100 barrels of single malt which were distilled and casked in early 2017. It’s somewhere between 3 and 4 years old. The whisky in this first edition was mashed from heavily peated (55-60ppm) Concerto malt using Pinnacle MG+ yeast (nice to know, whatever that means), and has a residual phenol content of 16ppm after distillation. The whisky was aged only in first-fill ex-bourbon casks and bottled without chill filtration or added coloring. At 46% ABV, that lines up nicely with other “craft presentation” malts.
Recent production runs at the distillery (which we’ll no doubt see in future Legacy bottlings) have pushed the peat up to 75ppm and switched to Laureate malt, showing that the distillers are still experimenting to hone in on a house character. Regardless, all that phenol means Torabhaig is likely to fall in line with other heavily-peated Island malts.
Nose: Ocean-influenced peat smoke. Heavy notes of iodine and brine / seaspray. There’s also roasted vegetables (eggplant / bell pepper / nopales), green grass, and seaweed. The aroma is on the thin side. I wouldn’t call it watery, but aside from peat there isn’t a lot of substance underneath.
Palate: Medium-bodied, with a moderate tongue burn. Surprising amount of vanilla sweetness with pale malt, custard, and cream soda. Of course, the same smoke-and-peat elements come through on the tongue, along with black pepper, anise (black licorice), and tannic black tea.
Finish: Long. The sweetness persists through the finish, accompanied by a very consistent level of peaty smoke. There is less bitterness than in some Islay malts. Fades slowly, without a lot of changes.
With Water: A few drops of water increase the nose tickle without adding new aromas. The palate and finish seem unaffected. Water isn’t necessary here.
Overall: A promising, but incomplete malt. One cannot help but compare this to both Talisker and the assorted Islay malts. It shares a rocky, salty, minerality with Talisker but without its roundness and completeness. It also shares a smoky quality with Ardbeg and the iodine notes of Laphroaig. The peat is present and strong, and the malt sweetness does a commendable job of balancing it. Still, it feels like a promise that is never quite fulfilled in the glass. As this is 3 or 4 years old, I cannot wait to try it at 8 to 10 years.