Glenglassaugh Torfa

torfa01Like many distilleries, Glenglassaugh has seen its share of rough times. While operating almost continuously from 1875 until 1986, the distillery sat dormant until 2008, when it began production before being bought by BenRiach in 2013. Since the newest iteration hasn’t been around for very long at all, the current range is a mix of young No Age Statement offerings along with a few very old age statement whiskies laid down before it shuttered in the 80’s. Torfa is the Old Norse word for “peat,” so guess what hallowed element is used in the production of this dram? Despite being young, this scotch is no slouch, having placed silver at the International Wine & Spirit Competition in both 2014 and 2015.

Distillery: Glenglassaugh
Region: Highlands
Age: NAS
Strength: 50%
Price: $59.99
Location: Portsoy
Nose: Salted butter, bacon, peat, hay
Palate: Mint, smoke, pepper
Finish: Smoke, peat, mint, spice, medicinal

Comments: A few drops of water doesn’t hurt. 

Adam – Of all the terms I could use to describe this scotch, the one that jumps to mind more than any other is “inconsistent.” I have tried this several times over the past few months and it feels like my experience has been different each time. I realize whisky can very much capture a place or moment in time, but my general impressions seem to swing pretty wildly. The nose is perhaps the best feature, full of some light smoke, along with the northern Highland grains and salt and richness I so enjoy. It’s like a little bit of sunshine. The palate and finish is full of some interesting mint and spice, and is certainly full and flavorful. The taste is something that seems to swing the most for me, however, and I’m surprised at how much the taste shifts the more you drink it. Adding a few drops of water certainly helps take the edge off but isn’t required. There are a lot of interesting elements in this scotch, but I can’t help but feel a little longer in the cask would have gone a long way toward harmonizing the whole to a greater degree. If you don’t catch it right, this lovely dram can become a tad unbalanced, which is a shame. With a start like this, however, I’ll be curious to see what they can come up with as their general stock ages. Call me in a decade.

Jenny – Smoke filled my mouth. Smoke and bacon and butter on the nose, a bit of pepper. Then when I tasted it, I got a mouthful of smoke, in a pleasant way. A kind of meaty smoke, with some spice at the end. Like a fall spice. It’s a nice fall scotch. But then the aftertaste is sort of weird and numbing and medicinal, which is sort of a shame. It takes a while for that aftertaste to get going. I drank several moments ago and I’m just getting it again now. If you kept sipping, maybe you wouldn’t even notice! Then you’ll get to a point where it won’t matter.

Meghan – The first time I tasted this whisky the group was in search for a spring/summer whisky. We did not get around to tasting it for the club until much later. However, I still feel that it fits well with springtime. The nose is very grassy with a hint of floral and dry hay. The whisky is a beautiful light gold color, like morning sunlight casting a gentle beam through the window and across the floor. The palate is more substantial than the nose and color suggest. I think this is why some club members felt the Torfa gravitates more towards fall. The fresh green grass from the nose matures into warm, dry hay on the palate. The floral aspect is gone and replaced by a slight hint of apple and pear. The Torfa does not linger on the back palate but finishes deep in the chest. It provides a gentle warmth, appropriate for a cool spring or fall night.

Water brings the flowers out in the nose as well as notes of toast and grain. Water does not hurt it, but I like it better unwatered. A few drops lightens the Torfa and cuts the alcoholic heat from the front palate. However, in doing so, it makes the heat of the back palate and finish more prominent and subsequently a bit jarring. There is a nice quick burst of citrus in the front with water but it is not worth losing the hay and grain. Water also bring out a twist of sour in the back palate, a kind of sour like wine that is starting to turn.

I believe I like this whisky better when I am alone and can dedicate my thoughts just to it. There are some whiskies that are better with others and some better when one is alone. This is a very bucolic whisky and best spent with thoughts of freshly plowed fields and new mown hay.

Michael – Adding water brings out more of a sour-mash character. The more I tasted this scotch, the more I felt like I was tasting the youth of this whisky. It would benefit from some additional aging. 

Peter – I noticed after you drink it, your tongue gets a little numb after a while, and then I just can’t enjoy it as much. So I have to stop for a little bit and try something else before coming back to it again.

Mary-Fred – I got some spice at the end.

Henry – When you call a whisky ‘Peat’, you know what to expect, right? After tasting, I was curious to know exactly how peaty we’re talking, especially after a recent excursion to Islay that included Bruichladdich’s peat giants. The Torfa comes in at 20 ppm, as compared to Ardbeg 10 at around 60 ppm and Bruichladdich’s Octomore at a whopping 167 ppm.

That being said, that 20 ppm goes a long way, without overdoing it. The nose is appealing, with apples, bright grassy notes, and light florals mixing with the sweet, briny goodness of a young Islay offering. A little rough on the palate – maybe attributed to its youth – with the peat coming through loud and clear. The finish lingers in that tongue-numbing way that they do when they need a little more time in the barrel.

You’re sweet, kiddo. Now I’d like to meet your older sister.