Google A Quartet Of Port Ellen

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

February 29, 2020





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent and guest taster Angus MacRaild



A Quartet Of Port Ellen Angus  
It’s the Old & Rare show this weekend, which means time is short but that we should also celebrate with something fittingly ‘old’ and ‘rare’. What could be more fitting than Port Ellen? Yeah, yeah, yeah! Maybe not the oldest, rarest or most realistically priced whisky these days, but I remain a big fan of PE and still find its shifting personality over those 16 years of production between 1967 and 1983 both compelling and often brilliant. I’m sure it’s still fashionable in some circles to be dismissive of Port Ellen, but this is Whiskyfun, and since when did we care for fashion?


If you are about at the show this weekend, come and say hello!



Port Ellen 1970 (40%, Gordon &MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, 1980s)

Port Ellen 1970 (40%, Gordon &MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, 1980s)
Not sure about the bottling year for this one sadly, but most of these stocks were bottled 1987-1989. Colour: gold. Nose: brimming with this unmistakeable old style Islay mix of ripe exotic fruits, wet rocks, minerals and soft peat smoke. Rather reminiscent of other old DCL makes of this era such as pre-reconstruction Caol Ila and some Lagavulin 12 year olds. Feels very ‘infused’ with various citrus, herbal, smoked tea and seawater notes. Beautifully fresh, elegant, vibrant and complex. These fleshy and bright threads of fruit are just beautiful. Mouth: as with other bottlings in this series such as the Brora 72s and some Ledaigs, Laphroaigs and Ardbegs, this is about as big as whisky can be at 40%. Big, oily and emphatic peat. Bandages, tinctures of iodine, wee hints of espresso, marmite and natural tar. Some dried exotic fruits such as mango, guava and papaya. What’s interesting here is that it lacks the natural dirtiness of later vintages; this is more about seawater, ink, medicines, oils, fruits and peat. Finish: long, fragrantly coastal, getting sharper, more punchy, salty and with a pure, crystalline and medical peat quality. Wonderfully smoky and salty aftertaste. Comments: A total thrill ride. I think these bottlings are still a tad underrated, even now. Or maybe just forgotten about.
SGP: 466 - 93 points.



Port Ellen 23 yo 1975/1998 (45%, Samaroli, 744 bottles)

Port Ellen 23 yo 1975/1998 (45%, Samaroli, 744 bottles)
This one from Mr Samaroli has a slightly muddled reputation. Let’s see… Colour: straw. Nose: very austere and rather ‘tight’. Lots of raw sea salt, beach pebbles and struck flints. Crisp medical notes such as crushed aspirin and antiseptic. Rather unusual I must say. Getting more cereal and full of wet smoked grains and lightly smoked beers. Pretty tough and unyielding I have to say. Mouth: fabrics, pure chalk, crushed pebbles, plaster board, smoked olive oil, cider apples in mid-ferment. More yeasty sourdough and porridge notes. Quite salty, mashy, cooked grains and plain cereals. Not sure about this at all, I wonder if my sample was ok? Some very pure and salty peat with hints of industrial chemical, bath salts and TCP. Getting more punchy and powerful now. Finish: rather long, bone dry, full of concrete, clay, smoked sea salt, ink, fabrics and something like burnt carbon paper and carbolic soap. Comments: Hard to know what to make of this. Feels like a real oddball amongst the other Samaroli offerings of the time. If I get a chance I’ll revisit this one from a fresh bottle sometime. Probably best take this score with a generous pinch of salt, I am wondering if my sample was totally up to par.
SGP: 256 - 75 (ish) points.



Port Ellen 1977/1992 (61.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #43.4)

Port Ellen 1977/1992 (61.5%, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, #43.4)
Colour: white wine. Nose: oooft! If you have any tattoos on the inside of your nostrils that you happen to need removing this will do the trick! Approach with caution! Having said all that, given a little time, this is extremely lovely. A big, blustery mix of seashore and farmyard. Coal smoke, anthracite embers, hot kiln air, tarry rope, creel nets, fishing wellies and industrial antiseptic. Powerfully medical and full of molten hospitals! With water: more gravelly and full of chalky, jangly minerals. A little more coastal purity, lemon juice and generally heightened sense of precision. Although, it’s still takes a rather ‘scattergun’ approach. Bath salts, smouldering dried herbs, smoked white fish and black pepper. Mouth: pure seawater mixed with petrol  and drizzled over sheep wool. A couple of lone preserved lemons bobbing in brine, caraway distillate, more natural tar, Mezcal and some pretty brutal peat smoke. With water: green olives, capers in olive oil, chopped green herbs, seaweed in rock pools and squid ink. Finish: long, super salty, clean, punchy, peaty and still rather a lot of lemon juice and tar. Comments: A beast! Like Laphroaig, these younger, powerhouse Port Ellens can often make Octomore look like a big limp-wristed jessie. This one is also interesting as it really nods towards the more contemporary ‘Islay consensus’ style which Diageo would more or less arrive at by the late 1980s. You can see many glimmers of the Lagavulin 12yo Special Releases DNA in this distillate.
SGP: 368 - 92 points.



Port Ellen 1982/2003 (61.2%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, sherry)

Port Ellen 1982/2003 (61.2%, Scotch Single Malt Circle, sherry)
Colour: orangey amber. Nose: the sherry and the distillate are trying to ‘out-salt’ each other here. Some superb fresh, pin-sharp coastal salinity meets many savoury beef stock notes and salty ancient old VORS oloroso. Thankfully they dance rather than fight so the overall impression is seductive and compelling. In time it gets more umami, more meaty, more savoury, spicy, leathery and damply earthy like old earthen-floored wine cellars. There’s also some more luscious darker fruit tones such as sultana, fig and prune. Some thick and boozy old Christmas cake. Dark chocolate with smoked sea salt, smoked German dark beers and even things like rancio and unlit cigars. Hugely impressive interplay between sherry and distillate which really elevates the overall complexity beautifully. With water: herbal teas, vegetable stocks, meat broths, umami paste, black olive tapenade, salted liquorice, mutton - huge power but also demonstrating total control and poise. Mouth: amazing control and power. The syrupy sweetness of all these dark fruits plays out as almost schizophrenic against these really resinous, punchy and leathery saline qualities. Beautifully salty, savoury and meaty without really showing any of the trademark dirtiness. Boot polish, camphor, raisins, strong espresso coffee and maraschino cherry. This is one impressive sherry cask I have to say. With water: really fantastic with water! More cherries, prunes, figs, smoked meats, ginger cake, tar liqueur, smoked chilli dark chocolate and some pretty old dry Madeira. Finish: wonderfully long, leathery, tarry, smoky, deeply umami and rather oily and fat in texture. Lots of coffee, chocolate, walnut and rancio. Comments: You can so easily come a cropper with sherry peat in this kind of combination but this was a pretty old school and wonderfully fresh sherry cask, or quite possibly one that was hit with a hefty dose of paxarette (bring back paxarette!!!) and it tangos wonderfully with the brute salinity of the distillate. I love it, we’re a midgie’s razor from 93 points here!
SGP: 576 - 92 points.



Big hugs to Jon and Enrico!




More tasting notesCheck the index of all Port Ellen we've tasted so far







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