Talisker does a lot of things consistently well. Being located on the Isle of Skye certainly helps – there is surely not a more spectacular cross section of scenery to be found anywhere in Scotland. Offering exclusively peated drams also comes in handy. There is nothing that guarantees dependable yumminess like a distinctive smoky swirl through all available products.
And then there are the little things. Talisker’s packaging is always beautiful, their individual bottling names are always evocative and their non-cask strength releases almost exclusively sit at a beautifully balanced 45.8%.
All of the above is true about the Talisker Port Ruighe. And yet… and yet… This one is more than a little different. The clue is in the name, Port Ruighe being somewhat of a non-sexual double entendre. Not only is it the Gaelic spelling of Skye’s largest (and candidate for Scotland’s prettiest) town, Portree, but it has also spent the last part of its barrelled life in ex-port casks. And it is this point of difference that makes the Port Ruighie stand out from the Talisker pack.
The nose is typical Talisker. Sweet. Peat. Chocolate. Salt. A bit of orange. Basically what you’d expect from the 10 Year Old. It’s on the palate that this diverges. It’s a little rough and pleasantly ashy but alongside the smoke is burnt fruit, sticky raspberry jam and hints of Turkish delight. The port influence is clear for all to see and really rounds out the peat hit. The finish is surprisingly long with a bitter, perhaps tanninic, dark chocolate linger.
While Talisker do many things consistently well, one gripe I do have with the distillery is the up and down nature of their copious NAS releases. I can take or leave the Storm and the Skye but this one really provides enough contrast to justify the release of a 7 or 8 year old whisky. It really is the sweetest peat on offer on the Isle of Skye.
I will forever be filled with immense amounts of good will towards Talisker distillery and with good reason, as mentioned in this ‘whisky musing’ post. Of course, this could potentially leave me viewing their products through ruby-tinted glasses. However, my love affair with Talisker whisky began long before my visit, and was initially kindled by the quality drop that is their flagship release, the 10 Year Old.
There is something special about the way the Talisker balances smoke with sweetness. In fact, if this review were written on a more succinct whisky review site then it may be summed up in two (conveniently rhyming) words: sweet peat.
It’s there immediately on the nose. It doesn’t hit you over the head with smoke, but you know it’s there. The sweetness is akin to the scent of melting brown sugar. It’s spicy when it first hits the palate; a subtly higher bottling strength of 45.8% gives this whisky an extra layer of complexity. The flavours in the mouth are full and confident with notes of oak and pepper before the smoke makes a welcome return.
The finish is perhaps the highlight of this whisky. It’s lengthy and peaty, full of hints of the distillery’s island location and yet does not lose the toffee caramel notes. It’s memorable and long lasting, and certainly a more than appropriate selection to conclude a night of tasting.
The Talisker 10 year old is a fine whisky. It somehow combines the best elements of Islay and Speyside and assembles them into one impressive drop. I will always think fondly of this distillery, but despite everything, I think the main reason for this is simply the quality of their whisky.