Reviews of interesting whiskies with some entertaining tales along the way…
Putting the Port in Portree
Port Ruighe is a port cask-finished single malt from Talisker, the oldest distillery on the Isle of Skye. It’s named after Portree, the largest town on the island and once-bustling port, frequented by ships that carried tradable goods all over the world.
The sea trade was crucial to the rise in the global popularity of Portuguese wine. In the late 18th century, the relationship between England and France was a fraught one. Colbert, first minister of Louis XIV set out to restrict the import of English goods into France. In retaliation, Charles II of England banned French wines.
Merchants with an interest in Portugal spied an opportunity. A gap was there to be filled and the full-bodied, robust wines of the Douro Valley were already proving popular with British consumers. The mountainous landscape that surrounded the valley made the transport of wine over land impossible so, instead, barrels were taken down the Douro River to the city of Oporto and from there, shipped to the British Isles, via the Atlantic Ocean.
It was a difficult journey, often made in horrendous weather conditions and loss of life was not uncommon…
A Portuguese brig, bound from Oporto to Sligo, laden with wine, oranges and cork, was driven by the storm of Wednesday last upon the rocks near Portreath, on the north-western coast of Cornwall. Captain Bidder, of Swansea, whose vessel was lying in the pier, pushed off in his boat with five men to the assistance of the ship-wrecked foreigners; but the violence of the surf upset his boat, when three of the brave fellows were drowned, and himself and the two others were driven on shore senseless, but happily recovered. The crew of the brig, consisting of eight men and the Captain, were all saved.The Morning Post, Tuesday November 10, 1897
The wine shipped from Oporto became known simply as Port and found an eager market in the British Isles. It was shipped in barrels and since there was no reason to return those barrels to Portugal, other uses were found for them. In Scotland, distillers began using them to store, transport and mature their spirit. Hence, the long association between Scotch whisky and the Port wine of the Douro Valley in Portugal.
Talisker’s Port Ruigh is said to be in honour of the hardy souls who risked their lives bringing the wine of Portugal to our shores.
Port Ruigh is a no-age-statement single malt that launched in 2013. It’s bottled at Talisker’s traditional strength of 45.8% and retails for around £50 a bottle.
Smell: Caramel and peanuts. Touch of cinnamon. Some chocolatey notes in there too. Dried fruits and some summer berries. Prunes. Figs. Raspberry. Plums. Touch of maple syrup. Black pepper. Sea spray and smoke.
Taste: Fruity arrival with raspberry, astringent cranberry juice and orange liqueur. Big dollop of runny honey. Blast of black pepper. Wee touch of new oak. Salted peanuts. Subtle smoke on the finish.
Thoughts: It’s got a nice weight to it and feels like you can really get your teeth into it. The distillery’s higher standard bottling strength also helps to deliver a nice intensity of flavour. Likely has colouring in it but it’s not too ridiculous. Port Ruighe pretty much does exactly what you imagine a port-finished Talisker to do. The port is noticeable but feels like an additional layer, rather than a mask for Talisker’s distinctive DNA. Feels like they got the level of the finish just about right.
Price: £50 approx. I think it’s a decent dram for the price. Finish a little short, perhaps but otherwise fully-flavoured and enjoyable wee sipper.
For more on Talisker visit here: https://www.malts.com/en-row/distilleries/talisker
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