You don’t often go to a whisky tasting and get given raspberry sorbet, half way through. Sniffing strawberry and getting a vanilla stick stuck up your nose, isn’t common either.
What some whisky producers will do to justify a new finish or expression.
And so to the new Talisker, Port Ruighe, which if you have never been to Skye, Scotland’s largest and most northerly large island in the Inner Hebrides, is pronounced “Por-tree”. One of several things I discovered last night. Always good to notch up a new bit of knowledge every day.
Diageo’s ebullient global scotch whisky brand ambassador, Donald Colville was at the deeply cool Opium bar in Soho’s China town. He was holding forth on Port Ruighe which is described as having been “enriched by double maturation in port cask wood to combine the powerful smoky maritime character of Talisker with succulent sweet notes of rich berry fruits”.
Getting to the tecche stuff, it is matured in American oak and European refill casks “in the traditional manner”. Then transferred to charred American oak casks that have been ‘conditioned’ with port wine. The whisky remains in those casks for a maximum of six months. The third and final stage is the whisky is finished in port casks.
Donald emphasised that there is no age statement because you do not want to restrict the blender from using the most appropriate whiskies. Something about having a “palette of colours” to work with and “manipulating casks”. This is becoming a commonplace refrain as the whisky producers adapt and prepare for the future predicted demand for Scotland’s finest.
Before getting to the ‘real deal’, the assembled audience of bartenders, mixologists had to be softened up with Talisker Storm, sniffing pepper and coffee beans.
We were told that Talisker is one of the “longest serving single malts” as it was never developed for blending. The strange 45.8% abv is because that is exactly 80° proof. Another nugget.
We then got the raspberry sorbet to clear our pallets for the big one. On a hot, sticky evening in London’s West End, the slightly tart sorbet was refreshing.
Donald then likened the proceedings to a tasting at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, the home of bacon & eggs ice cream et al.
He also took the opportunity to have a dig at ‘other port finish whiskies’ (no names – no pack drill) although he singled down the Balvenie PortWood 21 Year Old for praise –and not of the faint expression.
As to the reason for Port Ruighe, apart from the obvious one of making money, was that Portuguese traders came to Port Ruighe on Skye to do some business. Something I suppose about barrels but I lost the plot. Probably because the dim sum was coming up.
Anyway, a very pleasant evening. Everyone seemed to be up for it and enjoyed it. Some, maybe all, learned something.
Donald said he is off to Korea soon. Guy next to me said Koreans like sweet things so Ruighe, strawberries and raspberry sorbet should go down well.