Here we have the third official Glenglassaugh from the recently revived distillery. It started with ‘Revival’ a couple years back…continued with ‘Evolution’ last year…and now we have ‘Torfa’. ‘Torfa’ comes from the Old Norse word for ‘Peat’, according to the distillery’s website. (Wondering if others will others follow suit now with these Scandinavian naming conventions. Highland Park blazed the trail, of course, and now ‘Glassaugh has blown the Viking horn in turn. Have we now moved laterally from our Celtic roots to our wider Germanic lineages in choosing names for our malts? Meh…so be it. Some fun for the linguists out there, I suppose.)
First things first…I have to raise the same concerns here as I did in the review of Revival. Basically, that it’s too young and maybe hiding its true self a little (here it’s the peat, there it was the Oloroso). Now…before you think I’m down on this one, hear me out. This is actually quite a decent spirit. There is a lot of potential in the glass here. At the moment it’s kind of like a young colt chomping at the bit, but given the right amount of time and attention, it very well could be a winner. And likely will be. In fact, this peated variant is like a more syrupy version of a young Kilchoman, which bodes very well for the future of Glenglassaugh.
Pre-distillation peating for Torfa was apparently to about 20ppm, but as you likely know, that level of phenols does not necessarily translate directly to the bottle. Irrespective though, the fact remains that this is a relative smoke monster. It’s youth ensures that its feisty claws are firmly dug into the billowy cushions of smoke and that those peat notes are bold and forefront.
In briefest summation: This seems like a bit of a novelty bottling. I’m more interested in seeing what the distillery’s true naked profile will be in a few years. In the meantime, we’ll have fun with these releases and watch patiently as it comes into its own.
BTW…do note that I’ve scored this a full six points higher than the ‘Revival’. Nice upward trajectory in a mere two years, wouldn’t you say?
Nose: Dry smoke and ash. Pepper. Dusty asphalt. Lemon, lime and dry pie crust. Slightly nutty. Brine. Hay. A touch of custard. The smell of a cast (as in plaster, fabric and some vaguely sweaty medicinal notes). Not dissimilar to Kilchoman new make. Some creamy vanilla notes come out after a while.
Palate: Thankfully tastes a little more mature than it noses. Pulpy apple. Smoke. Citrus, as we’d expect. Wet rocks and salt water. Some sweetness. A touch of oatmeal. Granny Smith apple and Bartlett pear skins. Sauvignon blanc. While this may be mainland peat, it certainly tastes like the more oceanic Islay bog matter. Rather neat.
Thoughts: This was not ready to be bottled. Smells younger than it is even, if that’s possible. I’d guess a year or two if blind. The thing is…you can’t fault the whisky here, only the decision to bottle it in its infancy. Generating cashflow is imperative in a fledgling operation (or revival), but you gotta balance that against the currency of your reputation in future years. I look forward to what this will be in another 5-10 years.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt
This is the problem with a lot of these young, wide-release whiskies that seem to want to take the world by storm: they’ll really be something… in a few years’ time – yet age, of course, isn’t supposed to be important according to marketers. Interesting too, in looking around for information on this one, that there’s no hints of just HOW young this whisky is (can anyone find a rumour of any kind?), much less drawing attention in sales and marketing materials to the fact that there IS no age information by using the often-despised (with good reason) term “NAS”. No problem finding out how old the 26 y.o. is though – great big print.
But thanks for the review – I certainly believe it was a fair call and the writing, as always, is great. No doubt someday Glenglassaugh will make great whisky with its reboot and, in the meantime, it makes… Torfa.
Appreciate the kind words.
Yeah, I’m nearly at the breaking point with the NAS crap. I’ve reined it in for a long time. Even played devil’s advocate now and again. It’s now hit a point of idiocy. Watch for more in coming days. 😉
Hi Curt and Jeff,
I’m way late to this party. Tried this back in January 2015 and was really taken by it. From the sounds of your words, Curt, you and I had a similar reaction to Revival, but I found this one to be a gem and most satisfying.
It’s age? The previous owners began distilling their peated whisky for one week each year in 2010, according to Stewart Buchanan, Global Brand Ambassador for BenRiach, GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh. The whisky I tried was bottled in 2014 and Stewart touted it as being 3.5 years old (so could easily have been a different bottling than the one you had).
I use a 9-point scale that my wife, Barbara, developed. I use it as a Bell Curve, so, yes, I use every point on the scale. There’s really no way to correlate Barbara’s scale to a 100-point scale, but here are my scores for these two Glenglassaughs: Revival: 3 and Torfa: 7. As a point of reference I have scored three whiskies (out of the hundreds I’ve tried) a 9.
If I plotted all my scores on a Bell Curve the honesty of the curve wouldn’t show because there are, unfortunately more than three scores of 1.