I can barely comprehend the amount of old and awesome whiskies I’ve been tasting these last few months. A lot of trades of samples have happened and that has gotten me some old Rosebank, Port Ellen, Brora and lots of other goodies that until recently were quite out of my league.
Apparently those Facebook groups for bottle sharing and sample swapping are good for something! What’s also nice is that those groups are actually used for sample swapping and such, and are not polluted by people bragging about the bottle they’ve just bought or any other totally uninteresting crap.
Anyway, this one did not come from that Facebook group but I did get a sample of it, from TE, just like that old Clynelish of last week. This is even more rare since it never even occurred to me that Port Ellen was bottled at middle age too. I only thought that in the heyday there were young ones, like this 10 year old and then there were oldies. Silly me.
The nose of this one is ridiculously strong. Lots of alcohol and razor sharp. Some oak, minerals and other austere notes. After a couple of minutes of airing it becomes warmer with pastry pie, apples. I also get candied lemon and lemon curd. Throughout this there’s a strong note of black tea.
Dry and sharp. Dry and sharp. Pepper, alcohol, dry and sharp. Oak, spices, licorice. It needs water. With water the barley and barley sugars show themselves. The tea note is here again too. It doesn’t change all that much with water, but it becomes a lot more accessible. Somewhat sweeter too.
The finish is a little bit more gentle than the palate. A little bit. It’s still hot, but it finally shows that more typical Port Ellen flavor of lemon sweets and some leather. Tea again. Oak and white pepper.
This is a weird one. It’s not the flavors that are weird, because most of them are expected. What’s weird is the insane sharpness of it, and the complete lack of smoke. I talked to TE from who I got this sample and he said that 1980 was the most smokeless year for Islay (and other whiskies), and I think I agree with him. I’ve tried late Broras which were more like Clynelish than what I expected of Brora, and some other whiskies were quite light on smoke in those days too (Ardbeg Kildalton…)
Anyway, to review things more specifically. The sharpness put me off this one at first, and I think it’s been bottled at too high an ABV. Of course they wanted cask strength so they went with it, but whereas in some cases whiskies ‘can use’ water, this one actually needs it.
Because of that I’m not a huge fan. Although I find the lemon and tea notes very interesting. It’s still an impressive dram, but not a great dram.
Port Ellen 16, 1980-1997, 62% – Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection