We’ve previously praised Ardbeg for not taking whisky too seriously, and it appears that they are in good company. It seems that Diageo’s Talisker features a whisky based around a pun among its range.
The Talisker Port Ruighe takes its name from the capital of Skye, Portree, or Port Ruighe in Gaelic. However, when the team at Talisker decided to make a whisky in tribute to the town, it seems they couldn’t resist the obvious joke, finishing the dram in port casks. Admittedly, it may not be a good joke, but it’s more humour than I would have expected from Talisker.
I found the concept of a port-finished Talisker quite intriguing. Port maturation is normally synonymous with rich, plummy, fruity flavours. I was unsure how Talisker would execute this: the concept seems a little at odds with their usual signature. So what is the result?
Talisker Port Ruighe
Island Single Malt Whisky
45.8% ABV, matured in ex-bourbon and European oak and finished in port casks.
Chill-filtered and artificially coloured.
£50 (Master of Malt)
Nose: Initially very sweet, with honeycomb and toffee leading the way. There is also milt chocolate and dates, and then the unmistakable Talisker signature: drying seaweed, salt, and a little smoke from a driftwood fire.
Palate: The initial flavours are floral and sweet: clear notes of caramel, raisins, blossom, and plum jam. This then becomes more savoury, with salt, pepper, and burnt sugar accompanied by a building hint of peat, smoke, and salt.
Finish: Dark fruits and smoke; long and sweet.
Opinion: The Port Ruighe is instantly recognisable as a Talisker whisky, but different enough from the distillery’s other offerings to stand out. This can be quite a tricky balance to get right, and I think that Talisker has managed to get it spot on in this case. There’s a great balance between the influence of the port cask and the required maritime notes: neither overpowers the other.
Although I’m not a Gaelic speaker, I am led to believe that one possible translation of “Port Ruighe” could be “Port King”. Whether or not this is true, Talisker has emphasised the port influence in the whisky. Although I found myself enjoying the balance that it offered, I can’t help but think it doesn’t live up to my expectations: I was expecting a much more significant port influence, which wasn’t there. I didn’t dislike the much more subtle result by any means, but I did feel ever so slightly let down by the restraint of the final product. I also think that there could have been more complexity: at the £50 price mark, some of its competitors would offer a greater depth of flavour, although I would maintain that it’s not overpriced.
The Port Ruighe is different enough from the rest of the range that it will not please every Talisker fan. Equally, the lack of port punch will leave those seeking an absolute dark fruit bomb disappointed. However, it is a fitting tribute to its namesake, Portree: the town, while far from a bustling metropolis, is the main hub of Skye. It is a touch of civilisation, surrounded by stunning, wild scenery. The Port Ruighe is much the same: a touch of port richness, blended with the unmistakable character of a Talisker whisky.
I found the Port Ruighe to be a great addition to Talisker’s line-up. It proves that the distillery can deliver a range of flavours while still maintaining its signature style.