Incredible foresight or the ultimate in luck? Either way, Douglas Laing’s early procurement of so many barrels of Port Ellen is unprecedented in the industry. It’s rather widely accepted that Port Ellen, in it’s day, was generally referred to as a blender’s whisky, and not particularly coveted as a single malt. It seems logical that casks of the young spirit would have been set at a very appealing price point for any independent bottler looking to fill warehouses with peated whisky, be it for blending, trading or bottling. Years later, when the whisky world caught on to the niche collectability of whiskies from closed distilleries, Douglas Laing found themselves sitting on an absolute gold mine.
Thankfully, over the years many of those DL releases have found their way to Canada. In fact, the vast majority of Port Ellen I’ve tasted has been courtesy of the Laing empire (in one of its varied incarnations). The profiles of the Laing releases can differ by substantial degrees, but the quality is fairly consistent across most of them. I’d go so far as to say that Douglas Laing’s Port Ellen portfolio is, generally speaking, second only to Diageo’s annual releases.
Enough generalities, though. Moving on to this particular one…
Though initially skeptical of the low abv here (c’mon, guys…you don’t do this with old, delicate whiskies!), it only took a moment to be bowled over by this 27 year old. It was made in 1983, the distillery’s last year of production, and was bottled in mid 2010. Those 27 years were spent maturing in a refill butt, but don’t be fooled; in lieu of any sort of big sherry notes on this one, it seems to be built more on very soft fruits and only the faintest whiff of spices. Exactly what I imagine when I think of Port Ellen, albeit a little more gentle courtesy of the lower abv (which isn’t that low, to be fair).
Nose: Very Port Ellen right off the bat. Soft biscuity notes. Old book. Clean grist. Faint seabreeze. Mild citrus and wet rock. Very faded peat and smoke. A whiff of Werther’s Originals. A little bit of honeydew melon and caramel.
Palate: More alive here. More fruits. Oh wow. Now we’re deeply entrenched in Port Ellen territory. Smoke and beachside bonfire. Lemon juice over charred scallops. Sugar cookies. Burnt lemon rind. The smoke grows over time. Something slightly herbaceous.
Thoughts: Still a special whisky, but lacks a little oomph that would have pushed it even higher. Can you imagine at cask strength? A very restrained and elegant Port Ellen that suits my palate perfectly. Love this one.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt