Whisky Review: Milano Whisky Festival 2009 Port Ellen 1983 Over 26 Years Old


Style: Spicy and Smoky

Nose:

Begins with a quick whiff of barbeque smoke. Baked fruits, pretty deep and oily aroma. Then underneath we have tar coating, paprika and even some faint gunpowder. Brazilian grilled pineapple, tropical fruits fragrance radiating beautifully from the core. Chilli flakes and a pinch of curry powder. The sweetness softens and taking a slight citrus edge. Subtle mineral and oyster shells. Bonfire smoke slowly grows and dawdles in the background.

Palate:

Relentless spice runs rampant on the palate like angry waves battering the shore. Ashy air, boiled tropical fruits are carried all the way by the waves. Habanero chillies, white pepper, the expression is hyper-charged by fiery spice. Fruit punch, grapefruit and kumquat gummies follow through and brimming beautifully. More ash, burnt oak, over-toasted vanilla sticks with a soft mineral brush. The heat is still red hot at back palate. A smoky dark chocolate tail.

Finish:

The bitterness lifts its lid and some tropical fruits escaped from the hot clutch. Still a bit ashy. The sweetness unwinds gingerly to show a relatively peaceful finish.

Thoughts:

Phew, sometimes Port Ellen can be quite intense. There is so much power injected into the expression which has effectively compressed and sealed the tropical fruits heart which lies deep within. If you give it plenty of time, the magical sweetness will unlock and blossom fabulously for you. Clearly, patience is a virtue. I remember talking about how strong Port Charlotte is a while ago, but man, Port Ellen is really on another level, I wonder if this kind of distillate will/can be replicated again.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[56% | Independent Bottling | 1983 Distilled | 2009 Bottled | Single Cask | 156 Bottles | Cask Strength | 156 Bottles | Non Chill Filtered | Non Coloured | **-]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Sestante Port Ellen 14 Years Old

[43.0%・14 Years Old・Distilled in 1974・Bottled in 1988・Sestante Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

A stroll along the rocky beaches of Islay on a cool morning.  Oyster shells and seaweed washing ashore with a mild layer of sooty ash that brings out a sugary note.

Palate & Finish:

Sweet flowing lemon butter drizzled with coarse sea salt, the taste of clean ocean water with a pinch of black pepper to season the fresh seaweed as some dark berries gradually emerge.

The saltiness of the seaweed melts into the custard like creaminess, slow cooked pear in caramel sauce with just a light hint of oak bitterness.

Thoughts:

I think over the years, young PE as a genre has increasingly become a favourite, pleasingly delicate, and crisp and clean in this alluringly youthful manner.

You are only ever young once and PEs are only ever this young and beautiful once upon a time..

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Bottiglieria Corsini Port Ellen 11 Years Old

[43.0%・11 Years Old・Distilled in 1983・Bottled in 1994・Bottiglieria Corsini Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

Softly peated in a sugary manner, some fragrant white fruits, kiwis perhaps to go with some underlying chalk and smoke. There are some coconuts to bridge the fruitiness and creaminess; followed by a gingery note that cuts through, revealing white tea and Chinese herbs..

Palate & Finish:

Familiar soft fruits a la an old Islay whisky. Slight lift by the citrus to allow the minerals to rush in, light seaweed peat harmoniously melting into the beautiful soft fruits as ginger and oak give a lovely dryness that leaves people longing for more.

The tail fades away, taking along with it some subtle sweet peat and orchard fruits.

Thoughts:

Such unexpected elegance for a Port Ellen near the distillery’s end, this is not quite the typical 1983 vintage but it makes perfect sense as an Italian whisky.

Some evenings require big finales, other times one could use a dram this fine..

Close to scoring two stars..

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: The Nectar of the Daily Drams Port Ellen 27 Years Old

[53.0%・27 Years Old・Distilled in 1982・Bottled in 2010・The Nectar of the Daily Drams Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

The faintest hint of cowshed farm-y note on the nose which is subsequently taken over by a bouquet of stone fruits, white peaches and Chinese style preserved fruit peels.  A fatty peaty foundation with hints of seaweed and cream cheese for some reasons.

Palate & Finish:

What a vibrant, juicy drop!  Cotton candy, fairy floss and marmalade, the succulent jammy note proves to be most expressive, followed by considered layerings of peat, jasmine and oak.  The addition of simple syrup with some floral infusion elevates the dram considerably.

A sweet, refined finish, scattered sugary powder with some minerals leading to dry, crisp malt that’s treated with a fine smoke..

Thoughts:

Such a beautiful, playful Port Ellen, the fragrant sweetness adds to the tasty fun that is this dram!

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Port Ellen Distilled in 1979 Aged 22 Years (1st Release)

[56.2%・22 Years Old・Distilled in 1979・Bottled in 2001・Original Bottling・Limited Release of 6000 Bottles]

Nose:

Lemon meringue and barley sugar channeling through light caramel, the peat comes in rather politely.  The spirit conveys the grassy and malty notes well with the iodine becoming more intensive in time.

Palate & Finish:

Salted caramel and apricots on an oily palate with the peat hitting early as a welcomed surprise.  Pepper and tar with the peat being more smoky than sooty with the dry smoke wrapping around the lingering but diminishing barley sweetness.

A balanced finish as the peat smoke stretches on atop the wee sweetness.

Thoughts:

This is frankly just a superb PE.. there is this certain spirit rawness from a younger PE that is most appealing.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Port Ellen 17th Release 37 Years Old

[51.0%・37 Years Old・Bottled in 2017・Official Bottling・Limited Release of 2988 Bottles]

Nose:

Light fruits and orange zest, the peat and oak together create quite a sophisticated depth, dry twigs and ink with this maritime seafood influence that comes with this attractive seaweed saltiness, almost like a fisherman’s wharf, or the pier at Oban.  The peat smoke is gentle and comfortingly stretches the spectrum of the dram.

Palate & Finish:

Succulent squeeze of oranges, tropical fruits and spices leading the front palate, energetic and charming with the peat patiently grows more intense until it becomes truly astounding, all the while the delicious buttery malt lays a sensational foundation.

Lemon, orange crisp and cinnamon with the elongated maltiness leading to a warming finish.

Thoughts:

I prefer this over the 16th Release quite a bit, the 17th Release almost feels like a renaissance for Port Ellen (which is different to a revival of Port Ellen that is actually happening).  A relaxed malt, but one that has been executed to near perfect precision.  Now if only I could afford a bottle, or a case..

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

P.S. Thank you to Mr. Simon McGoram and the rest of the Diageo and Leo Burnett Sydney team for arranging the tasting experience. It is much appreciated.

Photo credit to Esmond.

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Port Ellen 16 Years Old Distilled 1970

[40%・16 Years Old・Distilled in 1970・Gordon & MacPhail Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

What a stately experience, the iodine is non-invasive, instead it subtly tugs the wood in.  The medicinal note has become quite mellow now with traces of green fruits being politely held back.  The peat fares a bit powdery but is complimented by a delicate floral note.  As time passes one would find the toffee is now caressing the fruits and it feels even more lovely.

Palate & Finish:

A lucid arriving of ginger, lemon and vanilla on the palate before the ripe fruits come oozing out, plenty of OBE it would appear.  The gentle mouthfeel grows gentler as honey and egg custard fill the mid-palate with a fine layer of peat lays the foundation, towards the back palate more sub-tropical fruits faintly seeps out.

The gem finishes with wee traces of more ginger and cinnamon, alongside light fruits with the peat faintly but tenderly but gradually consuming the rest.

Thoughts:

I really like PE with this sort of specs, a lot younger than what we are used to nowadays but so optimal in some ways.  This is structurally exceptional and incredibly moreish, poetic peat and alluring fruits..

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Port Ellen 16th Release

[55.2%・37 Years Old・Distilled in 1978・Bottled in 2016・Official Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

The heavy woody presence sets the scene, saphir renovateur along with a seaside influence as the seaweed breezes across.  It grows savoury with notes of smoked meat and dry cured bacon, whilst a fiery and oily undertone gradually develops in the background.

Palate & Finish:

A well balanced delivery with honey and stone fruits interacting with the oak tannins and the crisp malt.  Juicy and succulent with an oomph of spices muscling through, weighted with richness from the darker syrupy notes but still bursting with energy.

The ocean seasoned malt keeps stretching and twitching, the briny presence makes for a rustic maritime finish.

Thoughts:

The punchier notes we now associate with Islay whiskies have long been striped off but this somehow feels very Islay, perhaps, it’s the cold and unforgiving coastal vibe..

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Port Ellen 15th Release 32 Years Old

[53.9% • 32 Years Old • Distilled in 1983 • Bottled in 2015 • Limited Edition of 2,964 Bottles]

The 15th rendition of the Port Ellen annual release has been aged for 32 years old, a staggeringly long period when you think of your usual Islay suspects.

There exists a common consensus that a true Islay dram needn’t be aged for that long. There is a reason why Laphroaig and Ardbeg both do a 10 Yo expression, and why Lagavulin just released the 8 Yo to celebrate their 200th anniversary. The idea is that the longer the spirit interacts with the oak, the less peat influence it retains.

Now given, it’s mostly circumstantial rather than intentional that the 15th release has reached such an advanced age; and it’s true, this whisky is not the same Port Ellen some of you might have remembered from years past. For me the 15th release didn’t really resemble the younger Port Ellen expressions I have tasted, a SMWS bottling from 1991 and the first annual release. It is certainly different, but bear in mind that some of the most legendary whiskies ever bottled on Islay were aged for much longer.

Nose:

On the nose, there is quite an immense dose of aged black tea note at first, along with a seaweed note, the peat influence is rather subdued though. It is like this appetiser of dark soy sauce cured seaweed that is often served in Japanese restaurants. It’s somewhat of an acquired taste. This is fused with a faint sun-dried ripe mango note and burnt toffee, much like Anzac biscuits, as suggested by Xander. Venture deeper and there is an incense note, laced with raisin sugar and brushed with a faint sooty smokiness and a hint of menthol right on the back end.

Palate & Finish:

On the palate there is an interaction between syrup-soaked raisins that have been air-dried and a savoury note of Jamón Ibérico initially before it sinks into a thick body of ripe mangos complimented by a lighter tone of caramel slices. A rather floral character provides intervals of lightness and heaviness intertwining. Toasted peanuts appear on the mid-palate to give it some texture and then there it is, a clean, chic and smooth injection of smoke, though it just melts away, giving way to a peat presence in the finish.

Wee notes of charred wood and dark chocolate supplements the peat, which itself is delicate, an adjective one wouldn’t normally use to describe peat. It hangs around between the teeth, allowing one to reminiscence about the blissful experience that just happened moments ago.

Thoughts:

I suppose we can all agree that price tags often influence, understandably but somewhat unfairly, on the satisfaction derived from whiskies, but can a limit based on cost be placed on true greatness?

I think not… there are these instances of unique experiences when truly special whiskies are being sampled. It’s a thing that transcends above the perceived romantic notions that are often argued as being the result of marketing. At close to $5,000 a bottle, I still feel this Port Ellen does just that.

The Audemars Piguet 15202 is an objectively expensive watch for its specifications. It is substantially more costly than the 15400, a similar offering that houses an in-house movement, one that is legendary in its own right.

Sure, a lot of watch enthusiasts would prefer the more practical 15400 or even the IWC Ingenieur SL, an excellent piece also developed by Mr. Gerald Genta that is far more affordable. But with the 15202, everything simply seems to be optimal; every detail and every aspect seem to just bring nothing but joy to the wearer, provided he or she understands and accepts its uniqueness. It’s not for others to say whether the watch is worth the premium or not.

And this is why the 15th release shouldn’t be faulted because of its hefty price tag but instead be celebrated for what it is.

To own a bottle is perhaps financially irresponsible, however this may just be the dram to ask for, on a quiet evening at the bar if the mood is right. You are not paying for an old scotch from a lost distillery; you are acquiring an experience, and the enjoyment associated with it.

☆☆☆ [Most Recommended]

Lastly, thank you Xander, Sean, Dan Murphy’s and Sweet & Chilli team for organising a wonderful tasting.

Nicholas

Dram Review: SMWS 43.3 Port Ellen

[64.7% • 10 Years Old • Distilled in 1981 • Bottled in 1991 • SMWS Bottling • Single Cask Release]

This is a vintage SMWS Port Ellen that was bottled all the way back in 1991.

Nose:

On the nose, apricot and honey, a touch of coastal breeze, very pleasant on the nose. Vanilla and caramel with a hint of smoke to make it more complex. Traces of iodine barely detectable in the back end amidst notes of lollies.

Palate & Finish:

Some wood-fired barbecue meat notes surfacing after a while.
Intense spices upon the first sip, pu erh tea and chilli spices tangling on the tastebuds. It is also juicy and citrusy on the palate, youthful fruits such as lemons and papaya come to mind. Notes of cinnamon and salted caramel in there as well.

A long peaty finish, leaving a puff of smoke in the aftertaste. It’s chewy and woody and it is mouthwatering.

Thoughts:

A.K.A. “A young fellow from a bygone era”

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

 

-Nicholas