Age: No age statement
In the face of overwhelming demand, it seems that many distilleries are making changes to their range. Faced with finite stocks, it becomes harder for whisky makers to guarantee a continuous supply of aged whisky. Enter the No Age Statement (NAS) expression: often a vatting of whiskies of different ages, allowing distillers more flexibility to meet fluctuations in demand. Talisker is no different: while the 10 year old is fortunately still widely available, the 18 year old has increased in price dramatically. Instead, consumers can now choose from NAS bottlings such as Skye, (Dark) Storm and Neist Point. While in my opinion this new range is quite a mixed bag, Talisker Port Ruighe clearly stands out as one of the highlights, and an example that the negative publicity NAS whiskies receive is not always justified.
Port Ruighe is the Gaelic translation for Portree, the largest town on Skye, and once a centre of maritime commerce. This Talisker has received a double maturation in port casks, and is billed as “a toast to the Scottish traders who braved the high seas and were instrumental in the foundation of the port wine trade”. Marketing aside, with a whisky this enjoyable I am willing to raise a glass to whatever, whenever. Slàinte!
Nose: A healthy dose of sea spray bursts forth from the glass, accompanied by sweet, winey aromas. The Talisker distillery character is definitely there, but in a more sophisticated guise. Scents of hemp rope and brine intertwine with caramel, raisins and blackberries. These give way to an explosion of spice and vanilla, almost reminiscent of an aged rum. Very inviting!
Palate: Lush and full-bodied with sweet and salty battling each other in a tightrope display of exquisite balance. Red fruit gives way to a distinctly woody character, along with notes of toffee and milk chocolate. Belatedly, the smoke arrives on the scene in a sharp burst, gaining in intensity all the way towards the finish.
Finish: Long and warming, with a wonderfully oaky flavours and an aftertaste of heavily charred seafood.
Verdict: As a long-time Talisker fan, I have been disappointed with some of the recent No Age Statement releases (Skye and Storm chief among them). Port Ruighe is a definite exception though, as it’s fast becoming my go-to Talisker expression (particularly given the 18 year old’s price hike). Port Ruighe is a mellower version of Talisker, as if it’s been given a dose of patience and wisdom. It’s available in very nice gift packaging, meaning it’s now my favourite present for whisky loving friends. So far they have all been impressed, and indeed I think it’s hard not to like this dram. Given its relatively modest price, I believe this is one of the best bargains currently on the market (along with whiskies such as Fettercairn Fior and Laphroaig Quarter Cask). Warmly recommended!