It’s a pretty well known idea now that various high-end whiskies are there just to collect dust and show how rich you are, right? Like a perfect looking, does nothing spouse, or an expensive car, or most types of recreational boats, all the way up to a house so large your family gets lost in it.
None of it is needed, but we’re talking about whisky. The above can be translated into actual useful things. Alcohol is poison that we love to bounce back from. It’s something that used to be a byproduct, and now takes a long time to make. So we have to treat it differently. We have to examine it and determine if it’s worth losing part of your liver over.
Enter Johnnie Walker Ghost & Rare Port Ellen. Johnnie Walker Blue sat on the bar shelf we worked at like an angry owl waiting to crash down and cost us our week’s worth of tips. It’s still the number one whisky I’m asked about, bar none. After reviewing this previously feared whisky (feel free to search below for the review), I usually say “it’s okay” and move on.
But what’s this? The Ghost & Rare series takes dead distillery offerings and adds them into their own blend. No mention of the age of what’s in there, the percentages, the casks used, or if this is supposed to taste like Port Ellen. Then we run into a new thing: Does it even need to taste like Port Ellen?
The vast majority of people have not had an older Port Ellen. Not to mention the older Port Ellen is so different from the standard because it’s sat around for decades and been cherry picked for very expensive bottles. It’s an interesting idea, suffice to say. Best case? More old Port Ellen to drink. Worst case? Everyone who eventually buys new Port Ellen whiskies may enjoy these new whiskies more.
But I am in the unlucky spot of having had some Port Ellen. So does this scratch that same itch? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: € 660
Components: Oban, Cragganmore, Mortlach, Port Ellen, Blair Athol, Dailuaine, Carsebridge, Caledonian
Colour: 2.5Y 7/8
Nose: Honey, cardamom, dry grass, sea air
Nice honey and cardamom notes. Gets a little less sweet, some grassy notes pop up, some sea air.
You know, because everyone goes nuts for Port Ellen because of the brine. Or maybe that’s from the Oban in there, which is also known for having some brine to it. So far, not a lot of things say “PORT ELLEN”. Heck, I’d argue it’s yelling more “current talk show host Ellen” then it, but we’ll keep going.
Taste: Ginger, grass, honey, celeriac
Spice, grass, some honey. The official notes say wax, which I’m blind to.
Again, I have to say I’m not picking up a lot of Port Ellen here. Typically peated whiskies are in smaller amounts of blends, as they can easily take over the whole thing. This is sweeter, floral, and earthy.
Finish: Brine, grass, caramel nuts, orange, roasted veggies
We’re back to salt. I actually really like the finish. Do I like it because of Port Ellen? No, because the only thing I’d align with Port Ellen is the salt/brine. Maybe the honey notes, in this case grass? I’m reaching for a conclusion here. Why was that a longer sentence? Because the grammar fucking checker didn’t know the term “I’m reaching here”. Because it’s dumb.
Where was I? Oh yeah, you actually get some roasted elements and brine here, as well as a bit of grass, which could be Port Ellen, or could be literally a peated Cragganmore.
Conclusion: Odd, but a nice finish and certainly does something different than other Johnnie Walker releases. Probably not enough Port Ellen for Port Ellen fans. It’s probably not going to be close enough to new Port Ellen to enjoy it there either.
It’s an okay whisky. It’s basically about the same quality as Blue Label, and if you’re buying some upgrade to Blue Label, why wouldn’t you buy a Compass Box limited edition for the taste, or King George V, because it’s better tasting and looks cool on a mantle. This looks cool too. That’s where your money goes. That and the finish.
Scotch review #1564, Blend review #133, Whisky Network review #2288