Monthly Archives: September 2012

Port Ellen 6th Release Review

Port Ellen 6th Release043

54.2% abv

Score:  92/100


An absolutely stunning example of how a peated malt can mellow into one of the most breathtaking spirits on the planet.  This is whisky pulled from the cask at its apex and bottled to be held in a perfect state of suspended animation.

You may not be able to get behind all that Diageo does, but it’s hard not to give credit where credit is due.  Case in point; these natural releases of Port Ellen.  Some better than others, of course, but man…they really are in a league of their own.

Now before I start fending off the ‘Islay fanboy’ accusations, just keep in mind that this is a 27 year malt.  27 years to age and soften, develop and ‘become’.

The nose…coastal and oh soooo sexy.  That beautiful mature peaty profile plays well against a backdrop of fruit cocktail and Lemon Pledge.  Notes of salted greens and melon.  Phenols are rather tame and old wood brings that vaguely dusty latex scent.  Creamier than I would have expected in all honesty, but still manages to hit some of the more jagged tors that cask strength Islay whiskies often boast.  And finally…notes of seaside familiarity.  At this age…rather delicate (even at 54.2%) and Caol Ila-ish.

Large and in charge delivery.  Oily and bold.  Love the smoky seaweedy notes and coastal profile.  Dusty cask, licorice, tar and iodine.  Green apple skins on the finish.

A great dram.  In short supply, but long in our hearts.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Caol Ila 18 y.o. Review

Caol Ila 18 y.o.

43% abv

Score:  90/100


Long days I’ve waited for this one.  I held off and held off.  Some reviews spoke of mediocrity and of this malt not adding much to the range that can’t be pipped with the flagship 12 y.o.  Hmmmm.  What the f*ck were they drinking?

Sadly, this expression is few and far between in Canadian stores.  In fact, I believe that what is still around today is simply the dusty ol’ dregs of previous allocations that for whatever reason never sold.  In one l’il neighborhood ma and pa shop I managed to find this one.

Caol Ila, by nature, is a fairly delicate spirit from Islay.  It may seem counter to intuition to refer to a heavily peated Islay malt as ‘delicate’, but think of it as a ‘Notre Dame’.  Beautiful and seemingly fragile, all buttressed and decked out in ornate gothic accoutrements…but still made of stone.  Not much different here.

I gotta say too…18 is a damn sexy age for Caol Ila.  There is a beautiful balance between vibrancy and maturity.

The nose boasts notes of something slightly ‘green’ (but frustratingly intangible and metaphorically elusive).  Some aloe and honeydew melon are well met by mild citrus and a brininess typical of Islay.  Fruits start to emerge at this age and the mild feintiness that accompanies the 12 y.o. has faded by this point.  Of course the smoke has also done the slow fade as well (though not a full retreat).

Delivery is great green fruit with a hint of smoke that wasn’t so prevalent on the nose.  Veers into green apple and peat from here before a vanilla oaky finale.  Light and satisfying.

As to those other reviews…

All I can say is…what were they thinking?  18 is a great age for Caol Ila.  Do not turn your back on this one if you can find it.


Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Pat

Macallan 18 y.o. Review

Macallan 18 y.o.

43% abv

Score:  91/100


Macallan 18.  As revered and maligned as the monarchy.  Weighing in on this one is a somewhat tricky affair that relies on suspending preconceptions and allowing the senses to decide.

The contentious point with Macallan is always price.  Sherry casks are, of course, much more expensive than bourbon casks, but still many question whether what they get in their glass with Macallan is worth so much more than, say Glenfarclas or GlenDronach.

I have my own opinions here, somewhat tempered from what they initially were, but I’ll keep those cards close to my chest and again…allow the drink to work its charm on the nose and palate, bias aside (as much as anyone can).

In all honesty though, this is as near to faultless on the nose as you can get.  Beautifully rich and elegant.  The sherry is vibrant and warm, chewy and very, very soft.  A little bit of chocolate and grape meet fresh cherry and orange.  There’s a dusting of nutmeg and wood spice over creamy toffee.  A hint of heather.  This is a malt to savour over refined vices, like good old novels and great cigars.

The palate brings the mildest of dried fruit flavors, but mouthwatering sweetness as well.  Sweet caramel and warm melted chocolate follow, bringing notes of quality oak.  The finish lasts none too long, but boasts a beautiful top note and denouement.  Exceptional.

It took me a while to fully come ’round to this one, but I’m won over.  Great dram from the royalty of Scotch whisky.

An older edition I’ve tried (1981) is even better than this.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt