By Diana Karou Cheang
Whisky can be an unpredictable business, a fact that has closed the doors many distilleries and good whiskeys from every distilling region in the world. The good news is that sometimes they get a second chance. That’s what happened when whisky veteran Billy Walker revived the defunct Glenglassaugh Distillery in 2008, a comeback that eventually found its way into the hands of the BenRiach Whisky company in 2013. Located on the Sandend Bay overlooking the Speyside’s section of the North Sea, it reminisces on its history at home while exuding a nouveau riche attitude in America through importer Anchor Distilling Company.
Anchor Distilling’s media release described this expression as “brooding and edgy,” but I had a slightly different interpretation of the overall character of this whisky. The peated nature of my dram explains the name “Torfa,” which refers to the Old Norse word for peat. That said, while it was a consistent backdrop to this whisky, in no way did it dominate the palate, and the entire character of the expression can be better described as a regal and stoically masculine, not very complex, but domineering in its execution. Here’s why.
The color of my dram as presented in a Glencairn glass, neat, was a pleasant sandy yellow, mute in its pallor with a slight tint of green. Upon the slightly closed nose, a peaty tone laced together a briney fragrance, which held the scent together. The very first indication prickles the nose a bit with its cooling sensation like a sea-facing breeze, expressing the attitude of the whisky, but that reminder of a slightly stronger 50% ABV quickly falls away to a salty warmth embracing a shy molasses.
The simple nose is backed up by an extremely memorable palate. Unlike the nose, the brine becomes the steady (but not overpowering) backdrop as a viscous sweet coated my tongue and throat on the way down. This Persian-honey encapsulated a noble peat, dramatically sweet and saccharin. As the drink slides with no great hurry down the palate, it slightly saps the tongue of moisture with the heavy pull of nectar. The finish is heated, spicy on the tip of the tongue, hiding a shy pear at the very end. Every aspect of the palate is extremely assertive, including the finish, but it does not linger, and simply vanishes with its smoky calling card for next time.
Because it is a fairly new import to America there are not a huge number of places that carry Torfa online quite yet. It has a suggested retail price of $74.99, but you can find it for about $54, albeit be cautious about what the shipping will cost. That said, it is a fantastic find. In the UK, expect to pay about £40.