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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

May 14, 2013


1982-1969, one of our last true Port Ellen verticales, I’m afraid

A Port Ellen verticale is something that’ll become harder and harder to do, because there seems to be fewer and fewer new expressions around. Bottlers have kept bottling their ‘very last PEs’ for at least 15 years but it seems that they’re not lying to us anymore. So this may well be one of our very last PE verticales, although I’m sure we’ll always manage to find one or two yet-untasted bottlings to try. But organising more than one or two more true verticales in the future? Not too sure… So it may be better to switch to economy mode today and to only have four of them, including a brand new one for a start.

Port Ellen 1982/2013 (59.5%, Malts of Scotland, Warehouse Diamonds, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 1306)

Port Ellen 1982/2013 (59.5%, Malts of Scotland, Warehouse Diamonds, sherry hogshead, cask #MoS 1306) Five stars A brand new one indeed. I think many whisky lovers remember the amazing Glengoyne 1972 from the same series. Colour: dark gold. Nose: the notes of tobacco and leather from some rather dry sherry (wood) associated with a tarry and coastal PE, even a tad rubbery: imagine some kind of fruitcake eaten on a fisherman’s boat in the middle of the ocean. Maybe better not… Seriously, this is rather brilliant, balance is perfect, it’s got a crisp coastal profile but also some more rounded notes of figs and dates as well as a little camphor, as often with old Islays. With water: gets narrower and more coastal at the same time. Brine and sultanas plus much, much less tar or rubber. Although, after a few more minutes, some exhaust fumes do come out… Mouth (neat): huge yet crisp and sharp, very lemony and briny at this point. The sherry seems to bring a leafiness again but this is too strong, water is much needed. Cough, cough… With water: very dry, tarry, peppery… Plenty of old walnuts, tar liqueur, then more lemon, mile and kippers. Classic and not easy. Finish: long, with even more lemon. Some brine too. Bitter oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: we’re between too worlds here, it’ not as crisp as the ‘refills’ such as most officials and it’s not as heavy and rich as the sherry monsters (DL, old JMcA and such). In a way, it’s less spectacular but maybe better balanced. SGP:467 - 92 points.

Port Ellen 23 yo 1978/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, sherry finish, 764 bottles)

Port Ellen 23 yo 1978/2001 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, sherry finish, 764 bottles) Two stars and a halfI'm asking you, who would still do a six months finishing on a PE these days? And even reduce/dilute it? How customs change with the times!… Colour: white wine (sherry finish, really?) Nose: obviously younger and rougher, with more barley, muesli, soot, ashes, coal smoke and then a little dill. The sherry influence is highly symbolic, I simply don’t manage to detect much sherry to tell you truth. Or I am very tired. Anyway, it’s a raw and clean PE, almost fully naked, as its colour suggested. With water:  same, no changes. Perhaps more grapefruits and almonds. Mouth (neat): a little shaky at first sips, with a soapiness that’s a little disturbing. Paraffin, a little lavender, then more lemon… Something a little metallic as well (silver spoon). The rest is perfect PE but the metallic soapiness is a little strange. Maybe water will kill that. With water: doesn’t swim. The weirder parts got louder. Lemon juice from a silver tumbler? Finish: rather long but these notes of plastic and soap just wouldn’t go away. Comments: Douglas Laing have bottled dozens and dozens of better PEs, if not hundreds. Not an opinion, a fact. SGP:365 - 78 points.

Port Ellen 1977/1991 (59.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Series, cask #2017)

Port Ellen 1977/1991 (59.7%, Gordon & MacPhail, Cask Series, cask #2017) Two stars This is pretty young, maybe not even 14 year old. I’ve tried very little 1977 in the past, one Signatory, one Milroy, the famous Turatello, one DL and that’s pretty everything. Colour: gold. Nose: we’re somewhere between the two previous ones. There seems to be some kind of leafy and leathery sherry but the very high strength makes it difficult to nose. Harder than the new MoS in any case. I seem to detect some wonderful almondy tones, though. Maybe also fresh truffles – and no that’s not s*****r. With water: truffles indeed, brand new rubber boots, burning oil and more tar. This suggests a great palate… or a catastrophe. Mouth (neat): no. A weird PE, full of plastic and even more soap than in the DL. Ultra-hard so far, let’s pray. With water: no way. Finish: dry, rubbery, bitter and, sadly, long. Comments: some obvious flaws, even if some parts were great in the nose, which is why I won’t be too harsh with my score. Who needs scores anyway… Well, I like scores better than verbal diarrhoea, I have to say ;-).  Anyway, I think this is a good example of the old days’ inconsistency. G&M had some utterly stunning PEs and yet they would have also bottled this lame one. In a way, it used to be less boring, the whiskies were all cheap anyway and risks could be taken ;-). SGP:276 - 72 points.

Port Ellen 1969 (63.1%, Gordon & MacPhail for Donini, +/-1980)

Port Ellen 1969 (63.1%, Gordon & MacPhail for Donini, +/-1980) Five stars This is pretty young too! And very rare... A 1969 for Intertrade had been an absolute killer in my book (WF 96) while another one bottled at 62.2% wasn’t bad either (ha, only WF 94). Not to mention the CCs brown label and other wonderful 1969s (Silver Seal, DL for Alambic…) So nutshell: this should be fab. Colour: gold. Nose: kah-baaam! Massive yet ultra-fresh, not far from the 1977, only even punchier. It’s probably great but the important word is probably, no chances are to be taken with our noses. Careful! With water: there’s a little wine vinegar, plenty of motor oil, lemon, some kind of smoked cheese or maybe even gym socks, new tyres and a new box of rubber bands. Highly unlikely and even perverse but absolutely spectacular. Oh, and fumes as well. Mouth (neat): absolutely immense, this baby hits you between your eyes like Muhammad Ali on steroids. Oh forget. Stunningly massive and powerful, one of the most powerful whiskies I’ve ever tried. While I’m still alive, let’s try it with water: a bed of lemon, oysters, seaweed, iodine and liquorice. One of the purest PEs you could find. Well, try to find one! ;-). Finish: endless, brinier, smokier and, above all, very kippery. Comments: a totally extreme whisky, fabulously sharp, chiselled, concise and simply implacable. It’s obviously less complex than the older ones such as the officials, but this narrowness is actually an asset with ‘dry white’ whiskies, as long as no single tiny flaws show up. Absolutely immense and almost Wagnerian. Yeah, that would rather be Verdi. SGP:467 - 96 points.

And now a little bonus… (tasted two days later, this one wouldn’t have survived after the very powerful 1969)

Old Guns (43%, OB, blend, Low Robertson, 1970s)

Old Guns (43%, OB, blend, Low Robertson, 1970s) Four stars Low Robertson & Co were holding Port Ellen's license, so there must be some young PE in there, let's try to find out... Colour: pale gold. Nose: ah yes, this tar, this smoke, this ‘good’ rubber and these notes of motor and almond oils blended together… You just can’t miss it. There’s also a little sea water and then smoother tones of camphor, milk chocolate, vanilla and apple pie. No big monster but indeed the main base malt should have been PE. Mouth: this time this is extremely peaty, quite brutal, very briny and salty, ashy, sooty, lemony… There must be at least 30% Port Ellen in there, if not much more. Also notes of sardines or anchovies in brine, kippers… And plain sea water! It’s actually more coastal than many a Port Ellen. Finish: quite long and always very briny. A lot of salt in the aftertaste. Comments: a spectacular beast, I guess the good people who would have bought this while expecting some good average blended Scotch may have been very surprised. It’s pure smoky brine. SGP:356 - 86 points.

(Grazie mille to Geert, Konstantin and Diego)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Port Ellen I've tasted so far







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