torabhaig cnoc na moine review

Torabhaig Cnoc Na Moine (Legacy Series)

And just like that, we’ve arrived at Chapter 3 of Torabhaig’s The Legacy Series. The new Torabhaig Cnoc Na Moine is the first expression that matured (partly) in sherry casks. You can read my review below, but first some more background information.

By now, you probably don’t need me to introduce Torabhaig, but please allow me to anyway. Torabhaig hasn’t been producing whisky for long and is currently on a journey to a 10-year-old, which is expected in 2028. Most importantly, this distillery on the Isle of Skye has convinced me with their philosophy of well-tempered peat (a phrase they coined).

I’ve never been the biggest fan of heavily-peated whisky, unless at an older age when the smoky phenols leave breathing room for other flavours. I generally opt for light to medium peated whisky. For example, Benromach, Springbank, Bowmore and Ardmore are personal favourites. Torabhaig isn’t mildly peated, yet it does suit my preferences. Why is that?

The Torabhaig Cnoc Na Moine is made from malted Concerto barley with an in-grain phenols content of 78.4 PPM. Much higher than most Islay distilleries. That might’ve deterred me once, but I experience Torabhaig not so much as a heavily-peated whisky. And that’s to do with this distillery’s approach to whisky making and how they use their equipment.

torabhaig cnoc na moine exterior

In short: long fermentation, slow distillation and high cut points. Especially the latter is unusual for a peated whisky, such as the Torabhaig Cnoc Na Moine. After all, heavier phenolic compounds generally show up later in the distillation process.

I’ll let Bruce Perry explain further. He’s the Global Brand Ambassador for Mossburn Distillers, Torabhaig’s parent company. “Our foreshots only run for 15 minutes and we’re cutting at 64 per cent. It allows us to capture a peat character defined more by guaiacol than creosol. Less medicinal influences and a softer, more elegant style of peat.”

There’s this interesting graphic that Perry once showed me, highlighting the presence of phenol, guaiacol and creosol in the grain, new make and mature Torabhaig whisky. The amount of each compound present during the different stages of Torabhaig’s whisky production went from very phenol-heavy and light on guaicol, to pretty much evened out. Of course, I’ve never seen such statistics on other heavily-peated whiskies, but this kind of balance seems to be the key to Torabhaig’s flavour profile.

Measured after maturation, the Torabhaig Cnoc Na Moine has a residual phenols level of 19.7 PPM. That sounds a little less daunting, but as we just learned, it’s the type of phenol compounds that truly matter. There’s no breakdown available yet for the Torabhaig Cnoc Na Moine, but I think it is fair to assume there’s this balance between phenol, guaiacol and creosol again.

What makes the Torabhaig Cnoc Na Moine different from its predecessors, is the inclusion of Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. Just a small amount (and not a finish). Perry said: “What we didn’t want to do was overwhelm the whisky with sherry. But there are nuances in sherry casks that were very, very interesting to us. Raisins, sultanas, dried fruit, orange peel, almonds, walnuts.”

In my experience, Torabhaig has always been a more subtle whisky than your average peater. It’s probably a good thing Neil Mathieson, the distillery’s whisky maker, has shown restraint in the use of sherry casks. It likely fits the more elegant style of whisky this distillery is after.

torabhaig cnoc na moine

Torabhaig Cnoc Na Moine (46%, OB, 2024)

Nose: Hints of smouldering embers alongside orange peel, just a touch of sauerkraut, some marshmallows and nougat. There might be a touch of iodine here, but very minor. Also, a good amount of meringue, accompanied by a few wet rocks.
Taste: Proper oily mouthfeel, even at this reduced strength. Slivers of tobacco, brine, damp oak and wood smoke. Also some polished leather and sandalwood, then a hint of petrol, blackcurrants and charcoal. Finally ever so gentle farmy notes.
Finish: Medium to long. A pinch of pepper, teak and cigar boxes. Also subtle smoke. Warming and comforting.

I'll admit to being sceptic, but the small amount of sherry casks really does add new layers. It seems to kind of enhance Torabhaig's warming wood smoke, especially on the palate, which I find one of this distillery's most attractive traits. It's heavily peated, but not overpowering in any way. Will they ever bottled the Torabhaig Cnoc Na Moine at cask strength? One can only hope.

Sample provided by Walraven Sax

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