Wednesday, 29 April 2015

An ode to Islay 9: Port Ellen

Port_Ellen_56.2%-1979_22Port Ellen is of course, an Islay distillery that closed in 1983.  Another one of these malt distilleries where everything was destined for blends, so nothing got aged, nobody thought the young whisky was that special, so it shut based on commercial pressures.  On returning to the fully matured casks some decades longer, you discover the whisky is actually totally fabulous but you’ve stopped making the whisky.  Damn. 

Port Ellen comes out regularly in the Diageo Special Releases from a reportedly ever dwindling supply – 2013 SR had the 13th release, and the 2014 SR had the 14th release.  Prices are stratospheric.  Apart from those two the only other PE I’ve tried is a 13 year old SMWS bottling from Chris Davis’ stash.  All have been amazing.

Both of the whiskies I’ve saved up for this tasting were very generously donated to me by people I’d never met at the time, except through twitter.  That’s whisky for you!

Port Ellen, The Golden Cask, 27 years old, 51.8% A⊕+

Thanks a million to Craig at Green Welly for the mini!

20150426_104936Nose - Goodness me - intense and intensely sweet.  Rich and fruity with black cherry, burnt wood, some dusty deodorant and deep sherry tones.  There’s also a really savoury note with fried raisins and onions, and quite dirty with lurking sulphur and marker pens.  The sweetness is also beautifully dusty with that old Islay wood and fizzers.  Beautiful stuff.

Body - Soft, oddly flat at the start, with old sherry.  Then picks up with spice and toffee, and poached pears.  

Finish - Long, sweet with parmas, fizzing and a little spicy.  Then flat again at the end, with an unbalanced bitterness.  Long after tasting it, there’s an echo of Islay peat and big tannins.  Despite that flatness, a massive whisky.

What’s not good about it - A bit soft in the delivery?

What’s good about it - That wonderful old Port Ellen nose - otherworldly.  Sweet, darky, dusty and alien. Love it.  

Port Ellen, 9th Release, 30 years old, 57.7% A⊕⊕

Enormous thanks to Franck for this sample.  I’m slowly rationing my way through the wonderful set of samples he sent me!

Mar15-PortEllen9thReleaseNose - Sweet, sharp and sour, with a backnote of cardboard and wet oak.  Intense sour plums, perfect oak, soft toffee.  Antique, beeswaxed desk and fountainpen ink.  Waxier and waxier - beeswax candles, sweet lemon wax, sealing wax?  An enormous, beautiful nose.

Body - Richly wooded, beautifully spiced, perfectly poised throughout - no flatness on delivery for this beauty.  Perfect toffee lemon sweetness and blonde oak balance.  

Finish - Extremely long and a continuous development, mouthfilling with sweet lemon, mango, oak, wax and spice. 

What’s not good about it - only availability and cost.

What’s good about it - An enormous, mind-altering, evolving whisky, with perfect balance, poise, integration and loads of tropical wood and wax.  

That’s all folks!

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