Thanks to Strasse for the sample.
For those of you late to the party, or who have missed the other reviews, each year near my birthday I aim to review something from my birth year. This is Birthday dram #4.
Port Ellen evokes different thoughts for different people. To start off it’s one of those legendary whiskies that frankly is expensive because it was closed down. Turns out it was more financially viable to just malt the barley for others than to make it yourself. Let them do all the hard parts, and start cutting the peat.
Frankly, that’s led to some nice whiskies.
Others see the distillery with sadness. It wasn’t just mothballed; it was knocked down and dismantled. With a new one opening in 2030, they are now paying a shit-ton (metric) of money to make up for that. So there’s anger too, because will the new even be close to the old?
I mean, part of what has made Port Ellen so wanted is the fact that it closed, the whiskies that were good were put aside and given time to age. It’s released at cask strength. All those things that whisky geeks see as points of quality may not exist in a brand new distillery which needs to make back oodles (imperial) of cash back for having to recreate it.
Port Ellen closed down in 1983. Port Ellen 31 1982 Old Particular Douglas Laing was laid down before it closed in a refill hogshead, and has since been bid on and sold off so that 286 bottles can get out there.
Let’s see how it stacks up to history, shall we?
Price: N/A in my neck of the woods
Distilled: May 1982
Bottled: August 22nd, 2013
Cask Type: Refill Hogshead
Cask Number: DL 9964
Number of Bottles: 286
Colour: 2.5Y 8/8
Nose: Caramel brownie, cranberry, herb roasted chicken, French cruller, mint
Immediate caramel, butter, chocolate, and vanilla blast. Yes, that’s what goes in a brownie. Just a bit of salt there too. Can’t turn away from nose this.
Some acidity with time, and some meatiness/herbs. Never really hits the big caramel/chocolate, but more so calms down into a sugar/cereal mix. I’m addicted. Wait, how much does this go for? I’m less addicted.
Taste: Beer nuts, chocolate cheesecake, peach cobbler, baking pastry for the first time
More sweets, more nuttiness, and even more acidity/chocolate aspects. Tastes like a house where you’ve been baking with butter all day. And you’re in a good mood because of that. Or maybe not, I’m not your brain, maybe you hate things people love.
Some fruit here, but it’s mostly the butter that’s taking centre stage.
Finish: Mint chocolate hot cocoa, cinnamon hearts, spruce, croissant, pear juice braised pork tenderloin, yeasty salt bread
Sick of hearing about chocolate yet? Then skip over somewhere else. Spice, mint, spruce, and just the right amount of butter and acidity.
Gets this really yeasty/salt aspect right there at the end. I don’t know if I like that or not. Still deciding.
Conclusion: Certainly a contender to why Port Ellens are amazing. Which means it’s time to debate between this and some of the others I’ve had and split the slight difference between them.
Look if you like chocolate, grab this. It has that and spice going on, and a ton of baked butter aspects. If you’re just going to skip to the score, that’s why it got it.
Why not as high as others? I felt that it could have had a bit more acidity or a bit more of something else and really been up there as one of my favourites. It could easily become lots of people’s favourites. Heck, ignore my score, just for a second. You probably love peated whisky if you’re still reading. Get a chance to buy this, buy it if you can afford it.
If there’s other Port Ellen to try, try this alongside them. Single casks vary enough that you may like it better.
But do try it, because it’s spectacular.
Scotch review #1048, Islay review #283, Whisky Network review #1634