Alright. Let’s us start off 2020 with a bang, yeah? How ’bout a sassy lil indie Port Ellen weighing in just a couple years short of a full three decades?
This one was tasted in a spectacular range of eight different expressions of Port Ellen, including six of the Platinum series from Douglas Laing. The whole range was provided by our mate, Maltmonster, under the guise of ensuring that the whiskies were tasted before those horrible wax seals failed and the malts were compromised. Uh…sure. Let’s go with that. The event itself was a tag team affair between MM and another mate or two. And on behalf of those select attendees privileged enough to attend…all I can say is that we were humbled and grateful to be invited.
While the event was some time ago now, I do still have a few sma’ samples put aside for future reviews. In other words…we’re not done talking Port Ellen. Not by a long shot.
I know some of you love these Port Ellen porn reviews, while others simply roll their eyes. Hopefully there’s more value in archiving notes for these old gems than not, though.
This particular expression – a big, bold 28 year old matured in sherry – is a real cracker. Though I prefer PE in ex-bourbon, these outliers are a real treat from time to time.
54.6% abv. 227 Bottles.
Nose: Big sherry notes masking most of the PE-ness. Tar and smoke, of course (else this wouldn’t really be a Port Ellen, would it?). Chocolate. oiled leather. Menthol drops. Cold coffee. Caramelized bark of a perfectly cooked ham. Savoury, smoky and rather brisket-y as well. Some notes of aloe. Licorice All Sorts. Fruit leather. Under-steeped Lapsang Souchong tea. Polished Wood.
Palate: More immediate licorice now. A nice smokiness, neither huge nor one-dimensional. Dried fruit and jammy notes. Raspberry and balsamic. Charred ham again. Black current (real and of the mentholated cough drop variety). Smoked tea again. Some underlying shy notes. And green apple.
Finish: Quite drying (there’s the tannicity from the sherry, I suppose). Fruit skins. Strawberry and raspberry, but…in a reduced form. Long and lovely.
Thoughts: In a way, this is almost not identifiable as a Port Ellen. Strange mash-up of coastal Islay charm and big wet fruitiness. A little bit of a sherried Bowmore-esque quality as well.
what amazes me about the PE hype status is the fact that PE does not have a history of continous production. Especially in the years leading to her closure the distillery seems to have made what the owner called for. There is/was a 20 yo old in the Rare Malt series which is known for not being peated at all it seems. That was distilled in 1978.
And another forgotten PE secret: PE should be drunk young! In the first days of innocent curiosity in all things whisky I bought a 13 yo PE from a Geman bottler – and did drink it.
It was as beautiful an Islay malt as you could wish for and quite something different from the peat-reduced over 20 yo stuff you still can buy for such horrendous sums of money.
PS I hope things get soon back to normal for you. At least to some kind of normal.
Thanks, mate. Appreciate it. Distractions are good things right now, and this website is just such a one.
Of the dozens of Port Ellens I’ve been fortunate enough to try, the youngest have been 21 year olds. It’s always interesting to hear the divisions in opinion. Some say PE was great young, others say it was inferior in youth, but ages well. I wonder how much is OBE on the great young ‘uns. I do have enough evidence to say with conviction that Port Ellen does well with long-term maturation, especially in ex-bourbon.
Best to you.