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

April 9, 2019


How about some Port Ellen?

Because long time no new Port Ellen on little WF (come on, any excuses!) Well, it’s true that there was no Special Release in 2018, only some official single casks for pushy billionaires here and there. But Signatory Vintage have come to the rescue, which I find amazing! Now, first the usual aperitif if you don’t mid…

Port Ellen 15 yo 1974/1990 (40%, Antica Casa Marchesi Spinola)

Port Ellen 15 yo 1974/1990 (40%, Antica Casa Marchesi Spinola) Two stars
Okay, I’ve tried this one before, but thought it was pretty bad, back in 2007 (WF 75). Time to revisit it from another bottle, don’t you think? It’s G&M stock imported by Sestante (very strange people at that time) and sold on to an enoteca if I’m not mistaken. The Spinolas are a huge family over there in Italy. Colour: pale gold. Nose: very typical, partly medicinal and partly floral, which creates a funny combination. I almost wrote ‘combinazzione’. Petrol, earth, tarmac, old magazines, brake pad, moss, old pu-erh tea, then a tropical development akin to that of an old Laphroaig, with mangos and perhaps a touch a tamarind… Now it’s also very light, almost evanescent, which isn’t very common with Port Ellen, even when bottled at 40% vol. Let’s check the palate… Mouth: well, no, it’s a little disjointed, and that’s not because of the low strength. A lot of cardboard, the feeling of drinking ink, some stale lapsang souchong, and a layer of caramel that just feels wrong here. Not that that used to be unseen with these batches at that time, but different time, different values. It’s all a bit of a shame because there are also wonderful notes of crushed sardines, tarry teas, salted fudge, or baked oysters. Finish: rather short, but very salty, as if you’ve just had chowder. Sadly, the aftertaste rather shelters notes of plastic. Comments: I could change my score by one or two points, but why bother?
SGP:346 - 75 points.

Good, I think we’re ready…

Port Ellen 35 yo 1982/2018 (55.1%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #2040, 567 bottles)

Port Ellen 35 yo 1982/2018 (55.1%, Signatory Vintage, 30th Anniversary, refill sherry butt, cask #2040, 567 bottles) Five stars
Paw! Colour: straw. Yes, only straw, greatest of news. Nose: there are three words in the name of the cask: refill, sherry, and butt. The one that’s important is ‘refill’, in my opinion. Indeed, there’s no embarrassing raisins in sight, no half-sulphur, no prunes on a binge, and no unnecessary spices. Rather a very subtle, almost whispering coastalness, with ideas of langoustines, kelp, crab, drops of petrol, and the most complex softer olive oil, the one that’s made out of those small pink olives, the name escapes me. Wonderful complexity here. With water: charcoal, beach bonfire, cigar smoke, lanoline, paraffin… It remains rather incredibly soft and elegant. Hope the palate won’t have gotten weak and flat (yeah right). Mouth (neat): well, given the soft nose, I had thought the palate would be easy and almost smooth indeed. I lose, game, set and match. In truth this is a wonderful example of a Port Ellen that became akin to some kind of peated and tarred limoncello. Add bits of seashells and olives, and there, you have it. Indeed, it’s not a matter of complexity, it’s a matter of cohesion and fullness. With water: please call the Anti-maltoporn Brigade, sofort! Once again, it’s not spectacular, it’s not very complex, it’s not even loud on the markers (tar and such), it’s just a splendid, perfectly chiseled whole. Port Ellen. Finish: and there, it gets more extravagant, more citrusy, almost youthful. Only there, in the aftertaste, we shall feel one or two raisins from the sherry. Comments: seriously, it’s incredible that it would have remained this vibrant, despite the thirty-five years in that old butt. But then again, it was refill…
SGP:467 - 93 points.

Good, after the aperitif and the plat de résistance, perhaps a digestif? Let’s check what we still have in the yet-untasted PE box… Oh, more sherry, for example…

Port Ellen 28 yo 1982/2010 (59%, Jack Wiebers, The Cross Hill, sherry cask, 122 bottles)

Port Ellen 28 yo 1982/2010 (59%, Jack Wiebers, The Cross Hill, sherry cask, 122 bottles) Five stars
Sadly, I believe this was only a sherry finish, but you never know… Colour: full gold. Nose: ah well, this has some oomph and some knack! It is not very ‘PE’, rather rounder, full, rather going towards modern Laphroaig as far as styles are concerned, with this vanilla cinnamon and ginger mixed with a rather raw peatiness. It’s really beautiful and full, even if it feels a tad ‘pumped-up’ indeed. That’s the finishing. With water: cool, the coastalness comes out. Swimming pool (includes chlorine), mentholated custard, fresh almond paste, fresh walnuts… And good news, a sherry that behaves! Rather feels like manzanilla, actually. Mouth (neat): whaaat! It’s totally not Port Ellen, but it’s spectacular whisky, the 100 percent opposite of Signatory’s latest effort. Thick spices, peat, teas, tobacco, leather, more leather, even more leather… We’re almost sucking new cowboy boots here, and that works. Whaaat!? With water: what, some Swiss cheese? While that would work? I so hate it to like a finished PE this much. And it’s not even a complex one, it’s even pretty vulgar. Despicable. Ridiculous. Totally unbalanced. And yet totally marvelous. Finish: yeah, oak. Comments: at some point you need to just trust your nose and taste buds, and stop overanalyzing your whisky. While in the word ‘overanalyzing’, there is…
SGP:557 - 92 points.

(Gracias mucho Angus, Greg and Paul)

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