Opening a new bottle of Port Ellen is becoming more and more a cause for occasion as the days go by. The shelves are barren of releases from this shuttered Islay distillery, and what is out there – if you do manage to find it – is priced beyond the common man (which I most certainly consider myself). To put it simply…Port Ellen is nearly as rare as hen’s teeth nowadays.
For this very reason, it was a treat to crack a bottle of this 24 year old malt for a group of mates a couple nights back as we sat around and pretty much behaved as you’d expect a bunch of pretentious 30-somethings to behave (even though we brought along a 40-something and a 50-something, just for their worldly ways and charm). A great quote which I’ve long since lost the attribution for went something like this: “don’t collect the whisky; collect the memories you can make with the whisky”. And so we did. Hey…you can’t take it with you, right?
There’s an interesting tale behind this release. Cask #2466 was a split cask for A.D. Rattray, in which 188 bottles were released in 2007 as a 24 year old at 60.6%, and the remaining 199 bottles were released in 2008 as a 25 year old at 60.4%. Not an occurrence we see often, and one, I can only imagine, that would drive some completist collectors absolutely batty in trying to track down both halves to this whole. Fortunately, that’s not me. I just drink the stuff.
If it helps, though…I believe the 25 year old portion of this malt was released only on European shores, while the 24 year old was a bottling that landed here in Alberta and was an exclusive for Liquor Barn and Liquor Depot. The latter is what we have in hand, have now tried a couple of times and will speak to here. I believe it is now gone, but incredibly was still on the shelves up until just a couple of weeks back.
Before we dive into my notes on this one, I just wanted to mention that the only other tasting notes I saw for this release (again…the 24 year one) were passed on to me by a mate, and referred to it as similar to an Octomore. Until I popped the cork on this one I was a little skeptical about comparing a 24 year old PE with a fiery young Bruichladdich, but the comparison is surpringly apt.
This isn’t a whisky with a lot of complexity, but what it lacks there it more than makes up for in personality. A rather fascinating mix of young and old profiles from this cask that was filled in 1982, just one year before the distillery finally closed its doors for good.
Nose: Enormous. The biggest Port Ellen I’ve ever encountered. Peat and smoke. ‘Burning barnyard’ farmy notes. Iodine. Seabreeze. Vanilla ice cream. Pepper. Tar and chocolate. Lime zest and green Jolly Ranchers. Herbal. White chocolate dipped honeydew melon. Gets better and better the longer you nose it. Surprisingly starts to get a little creamier as it relaxes. Apparently this came from a sherry cask. Ummm…ok. If you say so.
Palate: Hell yeah! Huge and hot. Peaty and oily. The cereals are everywhere. Minerally and slightly tart. Leaves and branches (not that I’ve ever eaten them, but it’s like the palate’s equivalent of that olfactory experience). Slightly medicinal. Ash and charcoal. Much less fruit than I’d expect for 24 years on, but maybe some hard fruit candies. Especially the green ones.
Thoughts: Like an oily Caol Ila slamming head-on into a farmy Octomore. Wow. Just wow. And more importantly…how the hell did this one manage to come out at such an astronomical, blinding abv after 24 years?!
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt