Minis – Glengassaugh Torfa 50%

This particular peated Glenglassaugh and I had a rather unpleasant 1st experience two years ago…. hence I deliberately decided to keep an open mind to try again and see – better, ok or gasp! worse??

What did we think of the Glenglassaugh Torfa 50%?

  • Nose – Smoke – quite acrid then more ash, cured meat, salty, sour, dish rag
  • Palate – Sweet, oily, a bit chewy, then peat, a little cinnamon spice slipped in and it became increasingly sweet
  • Finish – Like chewing on a cinnamon stick, dry, peat

As we found Evolution benefited from being set aside and revisiting, we did the same with the Torfa. All we got was peat, sweet and spice.

In principal I like the idea of having a nearly cask strength whisky i.e. 50%. I also enjoy a good peated whisky too.

And.. at least this time I didn’t get cleaning solvent as I did back in 2015!!

Perhaps I need to wait another 2 years… or more… and see what these folks come up with.

However, for now, while happy to revisit and certainly not the disaster I remember from two years ago, it simply isn’t my kinda dram and I’m not going to be running out to buy anything from Glenglassaugh anytime soon.

What do the folks over at Glenglassaugh have to say?

At Glenglassaugh, in addition to the traditional production, we also produce a very limited quantity of whisky using richly peated malted barley as the cereal varietal. The malted barley has been dried in the traditional way, over peat infused kilns, giving the whisky its unique smoky flavour. Glenglassaugh ‘Torfa’, with its peaty, phenolic nature, is a unique expression, and is quite different to the usual style of whisky produced in the Highlands.

  • Colour: Gleaming yellow gold.
  • Nose: Vivid, sweet, sooty campfire smoke and sea air infuses zest of lime, apricot jam and ripe soft fruits; all gently warmed by hints of stem ginger and cracked black pepper.
  • Palate: An eloquent, sweet coastal peat smoke engulfs candied peel over melon, pineapple and roasted red apples. Oat biscuits, hints of heather honey and a gentle cigar box spice all combine to give a terrific balance to the expressive smoky character.
  • Finish: A heady, yet elegant, harmony of distinct coastal peat and striking spiced fruit flavours.

What else did we try in our miniatures session?

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Minis – Glenglassaugh Evolution + Torfa, Inchmurrin

After a few months hiatus, our miniatures sessions are back!

This time we decided to explore a revived discontinued distillery (Glenglassaugh) and a whisky my cohort couldn’t resist… having grown up with Tintin tales of Loch Lomond whisky (Inchmurrin)…

For my part, I was keen to revisit a freshly opened bottle of the Torfa, having had a rather negative 1st experience a few years ago at Quaich in Singapore. And was equally curious what else Glenglassaugh had to offer. As for Inchmurrin? I had no pre-conceived notions… however found our tryst with Pendryn’s Madeira sufficiently interesting to be curious to compare.

The minis were followed by Royal Brackla 16 year 40%… just because it was already open and I hadn’t tried it yet… a most acceptable justification! Turned out to be a great food accompaniment.

Other miniatures sessions:

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Glenglassaugh Torfa NAS 50%

I’m all for experiments. I’m also not averse to trying younger variants and have found some promising young bucks out there!

When I shared that I had already traipsed through most of the suggested whisky sample sets at Quaich bar in Singapore, the Glenglassaugh Torfa was recommended. I thought why not?

However just because something is ‘new’ (or in this case ‘re-new‘) or ‘different’ doesn’t necessarily make it ‘good’…

Glenglassaugh Torfa (Whisky Lady)

Glenglassaugh Torfa (Whisky Lady)

  • Nose – Overripe fruit, peat, grass… as it continued to breathe, could identify some gingery orange citrus. After sipping, the nose took on a sour curd note with a hint of jackfruit
  • Palate – Sharp, bitter, almost like diesel, young, brash and not balanced. My fellow sampler identified something akin to cleaning solvent. As soon as she said this, I couldn’t help but agree and then couldn’t get past this element either…
  • Finish – Smoke, but nothing significant and quickly dissipated
  • 1st impression – Disappointing

As the 2nd whisky we sampled (Hazelburn 12 year) was simply so much more to both our tastes, we left the Torfa alone for some time. We found it mellowed out a bit yet still retained the overall young attitude.

So we decided to see what happens when we added water…

  • On the nose, it shifted into overripe fruit, salty (almost like salted popcorn)
  • On the palate, became smoother, then some spice and finally light leather in the finish

As my companion put it

“Kinda like a hip hop dude who realised he needed to drop the attitude and be a bit more real.”

Certainly the drops of water helped, however the Torfa still feels like it has been pulled out of the maturation process too soon. I wonder if that is also the case with the other Glenglassaugh expressions – Revival and Evolution?

Of the three, Torfa is their ‘richly peated’ expression and my issue isn’t with the peat, it is the lack of balance.

However, in fairness, I should share that we have no idea how long this bottle lay open with Quaich and whether that had an impact, dulling other elements. The official tasting notes speak of melon, pineapple and roasted red apples on the palate – we discovered nothing of the sort! And when I checked the reviews from folks whose opinions I’ve found reliable, they seemed to have a different experience.

Bottom line – would we buy? Nope. In fact, we didn’t even finish our dram.

If this experience is any indication (which it may not be), one has to wonder if the investors for Glenglassaugh are simply being too impatient. The Speyside distillery only re-started production in 2008 and has already pumped out a trio of whisky expressions plus a few experiments like “The Spirit Drink that dare not speak its name” which is one mash of malted barley, fermented and distilled twice then bottled without ageing and “The Spirit Drink that blushes to speak its name” which is produced in the same way then aged 6 months in California red wine casks.

Now, if the Glenglassaugh folks had the advantage (or disadvantage) of a hot climate like India, perhaps one can understand releasing expressions after limited time… however in Scotland? Me thinks a wee bit more patience is in order!

What others say:

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Will Quaich Bar in Singapore quench your whisky cravings?

The ‘big close’ to my Singapore whisky tasting adventures was my last evening in town – Saturday night – with a fellow Whisky Lady. We had ambitious plans to hit a few different places however after a slow start at her place, then the limitations of my newly twisted ankle, we decided to take a more selective approach.

After a stellar evening earlier in the week at The Auld Alliance and the usual delightful purchasing pit stop at La Maison du Whisky, I was primed for surprises and an opportunity to discover something completely different – in a good way!

After considering :

  • The Secret Mermaid – known for craft American whiskies yet eliminated as shortly off to N America
  • 28 Hong Kong Street – reservations required
  • Pony & Jigger – likely crowded Saturday night
  • B28 – the latest incarnation of the Malt Vault – closed for an indeterminate time…

We finally settled on beginning our evening at Quaich

Quaich (pronounced Quake) takes its name from a traditional whisky bowl offered as a symbol of friendship. Around since 2006, it is one of the well-known whisky sampling spots of Singapore.
Quaich Bar Singapore (Whisky Lady)

Quaich Bar Singapore (Whisky Lady)

We strolled into a cosy space that conveniently has both an outdoor area for smokers, indoor for non-smokers plus semi-private cigar lounges around the side… in which a couple were (ahem), taking advantage of the seclusion offered.

The whisky menu began with suggested tasting sets then long lists by region.

Excited, I perused the sets, then had a sinking realisation that I’ve sampled just about all the whiskies listed in the them…

Now… I consider myself a novice in the world of whisky, so this did not bode well.

While the overall selection is fantastic by Indian standards (easy to achieve!), clearly one of the pre-set samplers was not going to satisfy my quench for something unique.

So naturally I asked for help from the staff which was… erm… just not on par with my Singapore single malt sampling experiences til date.

Whisky dram (Whisky Lady)

Whisky dram (Whisky Lady)

Now, I’m sure they must get this a lot “I want to try something different!”

And it is not easy to know what someone will enjoy until you have a deeper conversation about experiences til date and preferences… but that’s just it, there wasn’t much of a further probe and well… let’s just say the lass helping us didn’t seem terribly enthusiastic.

I shared my quandary about the sample sets with a sincere request for guidance.

No offer to craft a modified set, and in the dance to determine what may be of interest, my queries lead to her frankly admitting that she hadn’t been permitted to sample most of those I asked about, and hence could not speak to their character. Hmm…

Not that it should impact the equation, however, I shared a bit more background:
  • I live in India and appreciate the range available in Singapore
  • Am part of a whisky tasting group in Mumbai and
  • Share our tasting notes in a blog on whisky

All to provide context as to why I was so keen to try something less accessible and open to recommendations.

Normally, this would be the point during which other support would be brought in, if needed…

Off she went and came back suggesting the Glenglassaugh Torfa which, indeed, I’ve not tried. Unfortunately, it was not an entirely positive experience and we did not even finish our whisky. My friend opted for the Hazelburn 12 year – smart choice!

A bit of India at Quaich Bar, Singapore (Whisky Lady)

India at Quaich Bar, Singapore (Whisky Lady)

What amused me the most was spotting two bottles of India’s Paul John proudly displayed… with one bottle clearly already empty!

It could be that I just happened to get someone newer to the team or perhaps I wasn’t able to articulate my expectation well enough. However, would I go to Quaich again? Doubtful unless there is a specific draw…

What stood out was staff pride in their new Quaich bar in Myanmar “Do come visit us in Myanmar! Here is the card!” I simply wish that level of passion had extended to the collection right there in Singapore.

In our case, the evening ended on a high note as we gave up on further whisky adventures in favour of going straight to BluJaz to catch the end of a friend’s set. There the whisky choices may be limited, but the price is as reasonable as one gets in Singapore and best of all, by the time we reached, the band was smoking. I opted for a Macallan and considered my Singapore trip overall a success.


Quiach Bar is located at 390A Havelock Rd, Grand Copthorne Waterfront, Singapore 169664.