Infamous in these circles as ‘Tea Bag’. For those who think hooked-on-phonics is the way to go…well…perhaps not with Gaelic. This whisky is pronounced ‘chay veck’, which means ‘the little lady’ or ‘a wee dram’ in Gaelic.
Té Bheag is being marketed as a ‘blended Gaelic whisky’ by its producers at Pràban na Linne. Their goal, apparently, to provide ‘authentic whisky for the Gaelic speaking islands of Scotland’. Sources vary, but I’ve heard this is a blend of 8-11 year old whiskies from Islay, Skye and Speyside. I would assume that 8-11 would be subject to change from vatting to vatting; the inherent issue with NAS whiskies. As this is a blend, though, we’ll cut a little more slack. At the same time, we’ll also give credit where credit is due: this non-chill-filtered whisky is comprised of 40% single malt. If you know your blends, you’ll recognize this as a rather impressive ratio of malt to grain. Generally the composition of a blend will rely a bit more heavily on the grains to hold it up, with the malts being more like the diamonds in the setting. Seems Pràban na Linne is putting an emphasis on quality and character over simple economic considerations. I should also note that it is exceptionally rare to find a 40%er that is non-chill-filtered. Well done, folks.
Pràban na Linne makes its home on the Isle of Skye, home of the Talisker distillery. As Té Bheag has been confirmed to contain Skye malt in the end product, we do at least know that there is Talisker in the mix. As for the remaining components in the recipe? Who knows. We could assume Caol Ila from Islay (though I detect nothing of that profile), and as for Speyside, well…your guess is as good as mine.
While this blend is quite regularly available locally, it has crept from somewhere around the $30 mark to upwards of $40 in even the most affordable of shops (i.e. Superstore). In others it goes for even more. $40 may be a little bit of a stretch here, but it is a decent dram in all fairness. Any more than that though? Nah. Likely a pass. There are simply too many great and colorful single malts out there. Malt snobbery shining through, I suppose.
Nose: Rich in heavy toffee, caramel, butterscotch and any other ooey gooey stuff you can think of. Notes of honey and a touch of ginger. Apples. Slight hints of pepper (just a wee bite) and peat, which again hearkens back to Talisker. I would guess a bit of sherry-matured malt in here too. Not sure on that though. Fruit and nut.
Palate: That heavy, rich creamy caramel carries over to the palate as well. A slight earthy, tobacco, peatiness. Caramel apple. Cinnamon cookies. Vaguely fruity, but kinda like stewed fruits that have been doused in dulce de leche.
Thoughts: All in all…a fairly distinct blend. Smooth drinking, singular, but maybe lacking enough of an edge to make it truly stand out.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt