“Can a younger dog influence the old one to do new tricks?”
In your town there’s only one golf course and, as you’re sitting in the club house, you can see the professional at the bar. They’ve been around for years, they are subtly confident in their approach, they don’t really need to boast about their abilities too often because the members pretty much know what they can do, and often dip in for advice. Although challengers from other clubs in other towns appear from time to time, they never really cause the professional to do much to take note. Now, the professional is well known and markets themself in somewhat a classic style, generally dressing appropriately to that approach, confident that they are the only professional in town/
Then, one day as you’re enjoying a lesson from this very qualified teacher, waiting to tee off in front of you are people you’ve not seen before. The club secretary is close by; they explain that the town now has two golf clubs, but only one course, and the other club has also appointed a professional, someone young and confident. This new professional appears mindful of the traditional approach on the course but perhaps dresses more for their generation.
That first professional can no longer be the “only professional,” and has to rethink how to market. Not wanting to loose those that are new to the game, they perhaps adapt their marketing, pulling on a new shirt, brighting up the colours a little, but still wanting to show that they have the depth of experience. They now become “the oldest” professional in town.
In sport it can often be true that experience is a good thing, but as age grabs hold we perhaps want to see what the younger players can do. What is their approach to the same game?
In 2021 Torabhaig (pronounced Tora-vaig) Distillery on the Isle of Skye released their inaugural expression, “2017 The Legacy Series.” This release marked the debut of the first legal distillery on Skye (other than Talisker) in around 190 years!
Talisker, particularly with its age statement expressions, had tended to maintain a classic style of label, and tended to carry strap lines such as “The Only Single Malt Scotch Whisky From The Isle Of Skye” or “The Only Distillery On The Isle Of Skye Scotland.” Now, this young pup had turned up, and they were only three years old, but what they did by their appearance (and perhaps with their labelling style) was to necessitate a change with the old dog. Talisker could no longer be the “only Distillery,” and – with age meaning something in whisky – they very soon became the “Oldest Distillery.” They also changed the marketing to: “From The Oldest Distillery On The Isle Of Skye.”
This new subtitle was coupled with a rethinking of the label; Torabhaig’s label (on a square/rounded bottle) almost against convention is complete to the rear and rolls round to have a split at the front. Whilst still maintaining elements of a classic approach, its use of metallic and white lettering against different blues is rather smartly understated.
Talisker’s approach was to also maintain a good element of a classic label, but incorporate colour – for example, highlighting the label in orange on the 10 year old – and to add what may appear at first as a ripped portion to the lower edging. This is in fact an outline of the Skye coast showing the location of the distillery. Initially I wasn’t keen on this reworking of the brand, but – just like buying a new sweater for the golf course – when you wear it for that first round you’re not quite sure it’s really you, but it reaches that comfortable state and it becomes like the old favourite again.
Now that I’ve finished talking golf, marketing and fashion, shall we move to the actual liquid? I’m not going to cover Talisker here; it’s been looked at several times. Whilst the branding has gone through a revamp, in my opinion the product is still very much what it was before it changed clothes.
So: spirit first ran from the still at Torabhaig in 2017. Produced from a heavily peated concerto malt, it was matured for three to four years exclusively in ex-bourbon casks, then bottled un-chill filtered, with natural colour, at a respectable 46% ABV. Only 100 casks were produced and the whisky went on sale in the UK for around £45. Various other markets around the globe received limited stocks, with bottles in the US selling for around $60 USD.
Since that initial release, a second batch was released in December 2021 under the name Torabhaig “Allt Gleann, The Legacy Series,” using some of the 2017 product combined with casks of 2018 spirit. Whilst it is perhaps only possible to find the inaugural release on the secondary market now, the second batch can still be picked up at retail price from stockists. There are also cask strength releases from the distillery, but these are restricted to members of a subscription club knows as “The Peat Elite”, the latest offering being a five year old at 62.6% ABV.
Torabhaig 2017 The Legacy Series – Review
Colour: A very light golden straw.
On the nose: I’ve always got a place for peat in my heart. Whilst I enjoy drams from all areas, peat influences happy thoughts, this young spirit carried with it a salty coastal element, a sugary sweetness and a citrus hint, as it engages more there is a toffee and coffee warmth coming through leading to some white pepper.
In the mouth: The peat is more apparent on the palate, but the salty brine is also there, orchard fruits, (perhaps mostly green apple), lemon, vanilla with a salty chocolate dipped banana coated in a dusting of crushed almonds. On the finish: barrel char, salty smoke, lingering fruitiness dies down to a subtle floral hint on the back end.
I would have thought it hard to challenge an old favourite in Talisker, particularly something I love such as the 10 year old, but this youngster most certainly gives food for thought. OK, it is young and you can tell that, but it is a very good representative first release from a new distillery. I think it would be wrong to try and compare it to its closest neighbour, but try and see it for what it is: the inaugural release from a new distillery. As for scoring: well, it’s a decent dram. Could I replace it? I’ll probably never get the chance to, so its an awkward beast. Based on a number of factors I really have to aim for the middle ground.