T

Torabhaig 2017 Legacy Inaugural Release

Yes, we managed to grab a bottle at retail last week and promptly opened it. Madness I know, but isn’t the whole whisky world a little insane currently?

This release, after the previous week’s Springbank chase, seems to have sparked a whole debate around whisky availability and purchasing online. In particular, the whole grey area of automated bots that result in releases immediately selling out. The night before this Torabhaig release, Roy (Aqvavitate) had Arthur of Royal Mile Whiskies on his show and they touched upon the problems facing retailers and drinkers of whisky right now. As we all know, Arthur tells it like it is and this is refreshing; I’d recommend sitting down with a dram and watching the show.

My own understanding of bots is that you can program these to do a variety of tasks and potentially your employer uses these creations, to do more mundane tasks that can be automated. It is very difficult to develop a bot that can overcome every variety of website and their individual defence mechanisms. However, what you can do more easily is create a bot that scans every whisky website for any new releases and updates and immediately alert you to their appearance.

This partially might explain why things are vanishing before you’ve even become aware of a bottle. But also, we’re in lockdown mode and some lucky (or unlucky, depending on your point of view) individuals have more time to have multiple browsers open and hit the refresh button. In addition, lockdown means some of us have more money to speculate on things such as whisky and see it as an easy investment given all these ridiculous articles about returns online. I’ve also noticed a whole new genre of less obvious articles that carry the same message about the benefits of investing by buying whisky. On the flip side, there are others who might need to make some quick cash given a shortfall in their usual day job earnings, or their previously easy money second income stream, such as concert tickets. We’ve even seen a monthly bot subscription service where you can sign up to receive new release alerts.

It all adds up to a perfect storm where you can drop in an auction and find the Ardbeg Arrrrrrrdbeg!¹ numbering 48 lots as I write this article. I don’t have time to do the maths but I do wonder what the percentage is of these monthly auctions featuring bottles released within the last year? A word might be sizeable.

Yes, sizeable is a good word that also applies to the outturn of this release. Torabhaig promised a sizeable edition for everyone to enjoy. Numbering 32,000 units, on paper, it seems more than ample enough for our appetite. Unfortunately, in aiming to please everyone, they’ve managed to upset their domestic market by only allocating (from all accounts) just 3000 units to the UK.

Now, before you cry milk or suggest that we are more than spoiled in the UK, I can see it from both sides. However, given the well-publicised and ravenous market we have domestically right now, with several examples released in the past 6 months, Torabhaig could have allocated a little more and helped out retailers across the UK? But the upshot of this is this situation is wherever you are in the world, you might have a good chance of tasting this rugged and peated Skye whisky. While in the UK, at least one major retailer went down the ballot route for the £50 bottle of whisky. In doing so, receiving over 4000 entires for just 70 bottles. Just last week, Luvians reported over 1000 people online trying to purchase this release. What’s fuelling this demand?

There was an organic fight back from some of us online and ensuring others got a bottle to enjoy. I managed to help a couple out, including our Justine, and this is something I’ve done previously to guarantee bottles go to those who want to experience the contents. I can only see the need for this growing, given the current hysterics. And if you missed out this time around, then more editions will follow.

And that’s all I really want to say for now on this topic because we have a debut release and it should be a celebration of the effort and sacrifice it has taken to reach this stage.

The Isle of Skye is almost like a second home for my family and is somewhere we visit at least once a year. The beauty of the place would even escape Adam’s wordsmith ability. For many years there was only Talisker and the mooted project of Torabhaig at the southern end of the island. A dream project of Sir Iain Noble, I would visit the local bar and enjoy a dram of their Gaelic inspired whisky and consider whether the distillery would reach fruition. For many years, it felt the whole project was in limbo. Thankfully, in 2017, the distillery fired up and Alex has written more about the background to Sir Iain and his whiskies, which I recommend you check out.

I was thrilled and impressed to visit the distillery in 2020, during the midst of lockdown restrictions. Groups were kept extremely small andhad to wear masks and gloves at all times until reaching the tasting room. It removed the tactile sense of a distillery and smothered the experiences that we take for granted such as touch, smell and interaction. However, when we reached the tasting room, the gloves were literally off and we could relax.

What impressed me most about the tour – other than giving local employment opportunities – was the style of spirit they were distilling. This is a big, peaty, punchy, oily and rich distillate that belongs to the Isle of Skye. For too long, Islay has claimed all things peat and yet historically, the island that excisemen felt was wildly out of control and beyond the tentacles of government, was Skye.

The distillery is a beautiful restoration, surrounded by ruins and a wonderful view across the water. The perfect place to distil whisky? It certainly felt that way during my trip, which I paid for myself as usual. I left impressed and eager to try their debut release, which we’ll do, right now.

This is bottled at 46% strength and is made with concerto malted barley with a ppm of 50-60, fermented with Pinnacle MG+ yeast and aged in only 1st fill bourbon barrels. Bottled with no colouring or chill-filtration, the phenols level is 16ppm when bottled. Great information simply displayed on the bottle.

Torabhaig 2017 Legacy Inaugural Release – review

Colour: a light tan.

On the nose: apple pie, candy floss and some sea salt. It’s nicely balanced with the coastal characteristics mingling well with the peat. Some zest, lime peel and bacon fat. Also pine needles and a spent bonfire. Just enough detail. Adding water reveals more apples and some pears with peaches also noticeable.

In the mouth: oily, candied lemon, cask char and toasted black peppercorns. Liquorice, grapefruit, green jelly, brine and toffee. The peat comes through towards the finish with some salt. Adding water brings out dried reeds, bacon and smoke.

Conclusions

A well-sculpted and delivered debut. Easier said than done given some of the disappointing or below average releases that we’ve seen from new distilleries of late. You can wrap up the whisky in fancy bottles and packaging yet in the end it comes down to the contents.

Sadly, it seems many of these bottles are not destined to be opened. Someone congratulated me the other day online for being the only person they’d seen actually open a bottle. That’s a sad state of affairs for what is a £50 release. Following the story of this distillery for several years and being a regular to the Isle of Skye, this was a bottle that had to be opened to celebrate the moment.

The majority of the Torabhaig 2017 Legacy releases will be auction fodder in the coming weeks. For all those adopting this methodology of an immediate sale for a quick buck, it goes without saying you’re preventing some genuine whisky fans from their passion. I hope that the lots are so numerous that you don’t actually end up making much whatsoever. That’s what happened to the Ardbeg release and the profits, after costs, were pretty inept.

For Torabhaig, this starts the ball rolling, at last. Peat can cover up a multitude of sins in young whiskies. Here it’s an accompaniment to an assured debut. For such a young whisky, there’s enough to keep you engaged and motivated to follow their journey. I bet this will taste even better on Skye, whether outdoors in the wilderness or all snug in a bothy; hopefully we can put that to the test soon.

Score: 6/10

¹ It’s not very good at all, another botched Ardbeg, so don’t chase this one.

CategoriesSingle Malt
    1. Brian Mundie says:

      Hi jason , great review again , yeah its a shame whats happening these strange times , hopefully us sippers will get to taste forthcoming batches

      1. Jason says:

        Hi Brian

        Thanks, it is madness right now and I find it disheartening at times. Let’s hope so with Batch 2, the sequel Ardnamurchan endured the same fate so eventually, we’ll get a bottle!

        Cheers, Jason.

    2. Jason says:

      Hi John

      Too early to say, I think this one is more oily and fresher. Caol Ila is 35ppm from memory (not sure what level when it’s bottled), so depending on the age it could be a similar peated level. I’m trying to think of the best summary; this one is less scorched peat, I suppose.

  1. bifter says:

    Thanks for the review, sounds like a solid start. I think I read that this is the first in a series of four Legacy releases that will chart the progression to the desired expression?

    Regarding bots and whatnot, I was thinking about fairer ways to release this kind of bottle. I think it would be fairly easy to have some kind of waiting room principle, much like Ardbeg use. Rather than a queue, the room could open 10 minutes prior to release and it would then pick connected IPs at random, giving perhaps 5 minutes to checkout. Almost like a live ballot. This would also overcome that other peeve of online purchases, getting something into the basket only to be unable to checkout. There are reams of such complaints underneath every Twitter announcement of new sought-after releases.

    1. Jason says:

      Hi Bifter

      Thanks, a good start and we’ve seen worse let’s be honest. Good price as well compared to other debuts. There has to be a solution, as I know personally, I’m just drifting away from new releases as it’s just now worth the hassle.

      I do wonder how many of those complainers and the buyers are seeking a bottle to open and enjoy? Without it, we wouldn’t have articles such as this.

      Cheers, Jason.

    2. WhiskeyDad says:

      We’re drinking ours on Skye looking over a sea loch – we’re not whiskey experts but we’re enjoying it and your review has made it even more fun, thank you

  2. Ben says:

    thanks for the review and your thoughts on this one!

    I also had a sample here, and I agree that this one stands out from several other recent inaugurals (was a solid 6 out of 10 in my book as well).
    yet, I have to say that I find the price that they ask for 3 years of age and 46% (or can ask for – we as demand side of this madness are to blame as well!) quite stunning. but never mind me – this one seems to have sold out everywhere already notwithstanding that several traders felt enticed to ask for double of the suggested retail… (kudos to those who didn’t!)
    the madness surrounding inaugurals, investments in collactables, and flippings has grown out of proportion. the liquid is good, but I’d prefer any solid standard for a decent price over this one!

    [by the way: I found the Arrrrrdbeg even worse than the unspeakable Drum; too bad I only sampled them and didn’t buy either; otherwise, I could do a comparison on how to botch Ardbeg… I hope and assume that Mickey has some single casks safely stored away and tapped from while to while to comemorate his retirement. He must have had a good laugh about this one to top it all off.]

    1. Jason says:

      Hi Ben

      Thanks, yes the Arrrrrdbeg seems like a botched experiment. Shame for Mickey, as it probably wasn’t his first choice.

      The price is good for something that as we have seen can be sold for much more. I hope things can calm down and people who have a true interest in whisky, a desire to learn and explore, have an opportunity to pursue their passion.

      Cheers, Jason.

  3. kallaskander says:

    Hi there,

    I had a sample of the Torabhaig and I am sorry but I can not find my impressions of this malt in your notes at all.

    I smelled something like a young Caol Ila but surely nothing that has been peated to 50-60ppm in the malt and is supposed to retain 16ppm in the glass.

    From my experience I do believe neither. Young and pretty much unpeated is what stuck in my memory. I gave the rest of the 10cl away to some friends.
    What one can find on the international net is that the next in their series will be peated at 75ppm in the malt – whatever that tells us.

    I totally agree with you on the state of whisky affairs and young inaugural releases in particular.
    Some newer offerings are apparently products of money printing machines that are posing as new distilleries. But the blame is with people who for whatever reasons pay up.

    Greetings
    kallaskander

    1. Jason says:

      Hi Kallaskander

      That’s unfortunate, I did have the advantage of a whole bottle to spend time with and play around. Some things take a little more time and effort to show themselves.

      There does seem to be a split in the market now. Drinkers, collectors, investors and flippers. Some are welcome to pay the prices being demanded.

      Cheers, Jason.

  4. Boardsy says:

    It is really frustrating that new releases such as this or special releases just aren’t obtainable. Hard to engage with a new whisky when you can’t get to actually try it!

  5. Zenatello says:

    Today, here Stateside, I walked into my favorite local store for Scotch–which luckily does not have its inventory online–and found four bottles on the shelf. Which might sound like bragging, but this is the first release from any of the new distilleries that I have seen over here, so it feels like some sort of karmic justice. I promise to open it. Given our idiotic liquor laws in the US, flipping is hard except through private parking-lot transactions. Not that I would be tempted anyway. But the problem with the lack of auctions is that we can’t get all those wonderful old blends you like to pick up, Jason.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *