Oh the elusive allure of sampling from a discontinued distillery!
Once upon a time, Port Ellen was home to innovation, industry and experimentation. Established in 1825, a shrewd early owner Ramsay pushed Port Ellen to become the 1st distillery to secure the right to export large casks to North America, set up a bonded warehouse system that remains in use today, part of creating continuous stills, established an Islay steamboat, imported Sherry and Mediera to Glasgow and even tried his hand at politics!
Though his family sold their interest in the 1920, Port Ellen continued to operate maltings and the bonded warehouses, re-opening with two more stills in 1966-67.
However by 1983, a choice had to be made… to close Caol Ila or to close Port Ellen? Caol Ila fans remain ever so grateful their distillery was given new focus and life… whereas many industry pundits bemoan the absence of new Port Ellen offerings with its versatile style.
As the folks over at The Whisky Exchange share:
Some sherry-casked Port Ellen can be beautifully rich, spicy, sweet and leathery; bourbon and refill casks often show a more austere, peppery medium-weighted style. Common characteristics, though, are a high level of peatiness and, in the best examples, a phenomenal complexity which Islay fans adore. For these reasons Port Ellen has become one of the most sought-after of the lost distilleries by collectors, investors and aficionados.
This particular Port Ellen was aged 26 years… part of the last batches laid in September 1982 and bottled in July 2009. There are only 712 bottles in existence released by independent bottler Douglas Laing & Co as part of their Old Malt Cask series.
Here is what we found:
- Nose – Gorgeous smoky bacon, peat, dry fruits, blue cheese, mustard, lots of those umame notes, sweet, iodine, over-ripe fruit, spoiled apple
- Taste – Smokey cigar, baked pie, cinnamon spice candies, chewy black pepper, a little nutty, wet cardboard, burnt oak, creamy
- Finish – Smokey spicy bacon, ashes, salt
- Water – Kicks up the spice level initially – especially the black pepper then settles into a harmonious marriage of warm peat and cinnamon spice
The presence of peat is unmistakable yet it is restrained in the most enjoyable way. In short, an absolutely beautiful dram!
A discussion ensued about all the elements we discover in a whisky. As Krishna Nakula put it:
“Whisky tasting is a metaphor… How does bacon, vanilla, fruit come to us? From the esters during the fermentation process.”
Yet it is how our senses interpret that makes appreciating a complex, interesting whisky so special!
The folks over at Douglas Laing & Co shared on the bottle their tasting notes:
- Nose – Opens creamy with a sweet baked style + peat fire in a kiln
- Palate – Phenolic with burnt oak, sweet tar + creoste + ashes
- Finish – Long + salty rock pools, burnt toast + more damp ash
This remarkable rare malt came courtesy of India’s Malt Maniac Krishna Nakula at an evening organised by The Secret Supper Project and The Vault Fine Spirits in celebration of 20 years of Malt Madness.
Other discontinued whiskies sampled:
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