Last review of 2013 was a Port Ellen. Only fitting that the first of 2014 is…a Port Ellen.
Far less valleys and mountain tops with this PE than many of the others out there. This is a rather unremarkable specimen from Islay’s infamously closed distillery. Having said that…being an unremarkable Port Ellen is still sorta like being the least popular Beatle. Everyone still wants a piece of you and you ARE still legendary and timeless.
I’m often a sucker for malts in their very late teens or early twenties. It seems to be a bit a personal sweet spot for me. But I think most of the very best Port Ellen releases I’ve tried so far have all been a little bit older than that. The Diageo releases, of course, but also the OMC ones that fall in the 26 or 27 year range. Awesome stuff, that. But hey…beggars can’t be choosers, right? So let’s dig in to a 22 year old from the teeming warehouses of Douglas Laing.
The Laing brothers (prior to their recent split) and family, in a measure of incredible foresight and prudence, or simply fortuitous purchasing of what was possibly considered an inferior malt at the time, managed to lay aside vast stocks of Port Ellen casks after the distillery’s closure in ’83. This particular expression is from the last days of distillation in 1983. It was a rather generous refill butt that yielded a healthy 660 bottles at 50% abv. Shame it wasn’t at natural cask strength, but we’ll happily take 50%.
Nose: Faint peat up front with a bit of almost elusive smoke. Salted toffee and brine. Lemon polish and orange. Seaside-ish, but also quite farmyard-ish. Rye bread. Malty and carrying a little bit of feintiness. Dried fruit and dusty old chocolate. To be honest…not quite up to snuff.
Palate: Salty and somewhat pickle-ish (without being really dill-y. More malty, rye notes. Raisin and lemon juice. Dried fruits seem more vibrant here…maybe even jammy. Smoke and earth. Tannic and drying. Better palate than nose.
Thoughts: Maybe not the best of cask quality here. Still more than decent, but this is the kind of Port Ellen that makes people question whether or not they’re really worth the (ever growing) price tag.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt