Arriving at the Neis Point lighthouse on the West of the Isle of Skye is already an adventure, but leaving it is another one, especially when you have just tasted two TALISKER whiskies (go and have a look at the comparative tasting of the TALISKER STORM and the TALSKER SKYE here and you will see).
So, it is by taking my courage in both hands, that I leave this rocky point in company of my host Craig MacLeod before climbing the "few" steps which bring us back to my faithful BRAD PEAT parked at the top.
As we make our way up the steps, he tells me that he wants to take me to his Clan's castle for another tasting: DUNVEGAN Castle to taste the TALISKER PORT RUIGHE.
The road from Neis Point to DUNVEGAN is winding and passes through mountains and meadows populated by...sheep! On the way Craig tells me that the Castle we are going to was built in 1200 and has been home to the chiefs of his clan (since Leod MacLeod took up residence there) for the last 8 centuries: The MacLeod of MacLeod and Harris.
After half an hour of far from straight driving we arrived at the massive, crenellated castle of DUNVEGAN at the bottom of the Loch of the same name.
The sun being out (as it often is on the Isle of Skye), he told me that he thought it would be best to go and taste the whisky on the banks of Loch Dunevegan just in front of the castle.
He tells me that this will avoid awakening the old spirits of the castle, such as that of Wicked Man for example (also known as "the red man" but who answered to the name of Norman MacLeod 22nd chief of the clan) who was not very fond of whisky and who had, as during the Jacobite uprising, a tendency to make people understand in his own way that he was not happy. Between us, since "The Wicked Man" still means the wicked man, I went along with him because I still want to do more tastings in the future.
The fact is that we walked around the solid beige plastered castle that "holds fast" and proudly displays the bull's head crest, past the beautiful "English" gardens and the bucolic waterfall before arriving just past the cove where we were going to taste right in front of the property. This is what we call Scottish wine tourism!
Opening the bottle which contains a beautiful amber coloured liquid with orange highlights, he explains to me that whilst the first apparent meaning of the name of these distillates obviously refers to the port cask in which it finished its ageing journey (after a more usual first trip in bourbon casks to the distillery on the shores of Loch Harport.
But this is only part of the story. Indeed, the name PORT RUIGHE is intended to pay tribute to the Scottish sailors who transported the Port casks around the world from the beautiful Isle of Skye. Also, what better way to refer to the Island's once "main" trading port than the colourful PORTREE (which is nowadays nothing more or less than the Scottish pronunciation of PORT RHUIGE)!
On the nose, the peaty notes of Talisker will be found, but with a more pronounced edge. It will however be on a warmer peat and less citrusy than a 10 year old Talisker for example. From the start, we discover notes of sweet dried fruit (sultanas and dried apricots).
While keeping a hint of smoke, the second passage remains warm and sweet but with a rise of spices. The aromas turn to plum.
In the third passage the spices calm down and give way to a little more peat smoke and a woody side with a smell of chocolate and liquorice.
In the palm of the hand, the peat smoke is of course present but with a little more fruit flavour than on the 10 year old.
On the palate, it starts with warm, sweet notes of red fruits, but very quickly peppery notes dominate.
Then comes the peat smoke and the distillate comes back on spicy notes. A little later, after passing through a fresh hint of iodine, it becomes mellow and thick (velvet). At the end, it tends to fade and become more discreet, but one discovers, in fits and starts, more tense and fresh notes that resemble a hint of salt on the sides of the mouth.
Once swallowed, one feels a nice minty freshness at the beginning, but it is the heat that remains the most present in the throat, accompanied by smoke and spice sprinkles in the mouth.
This whisky will turn out to be quite complex, but rounder than what one is used to with a Talisker. It is certainly different from what the regulars like but I find it quite successful.
It is besides what I hasten to say to my host.
He tells me that our journey is not completely finished on the Isle of Skye. We are now going to take the direction of the centre of the island on the Sligachan Old Bridge where a new tasting of excellence of the TALISKER distillery is waiting for us (if you follow me on instagram you will have a clue) but, that will be soon for another adventure on this site!