It’s been a while since I tried a Port Ellen, but my mate Jason gave me a sample of the bottle he opened for his 40th birtday, earlier this year. It’s not just any Port Ellen but one from the mid-seventies, which should mean it’s a bit more typical of the distillery style than 1980s releases. The last couple of years of the distillery’s existence were a bit more random than before, with some great bottlings, but also some less interesting ones.
In case of Old Malt Cask bottlings, a whisky released at 50% means that it was at least that when coming out of the cask, but most likely a bit higher still. I don’t think they’ve bottled much over the 50% mark, but I might be wrong. I do know there are some tremendous drams from the brand, of which we don’t get to see many since the split between the Douglas and Hunter Laing companies.
The nose is old and oily. Quite unlike any modern whiskies. The smoke is gentle with lemon candies and shammy leather. Real Port Ellen. Some white pepper, white oak and leafy green scents.
The palate builds up and is quite intense. There are flavors of leather, smoke, lemon and oak. The lemon and leather notes keep building, but there aer also green leaves and some spices noticeable.
The finish is a tad more simple. Quite long, but more straight forward. Some of the more nuanced flavors are gone quickly. The oak, leather and lemon linger quite long with the gentle smoke.
Yup. This one works! It’s a really, really good one with a great balance of flavors. Nothing dominates the palate or nose and the smooth smoke is a reason to shell out for old Islay whiskies instead of the more monotone belters of peaty sharpness that are released nowadays.
The biggest drawback of this kind of whisky is that you want more of it and it’s now some 600 bucks in shops. The shammy leather, lemon and smoke combination is a really unique thing of Port Ellen and something to be treasured. Great stuff indeed!
Port Ellen, 03/1976 – 04/2001, 25yo, 50%, Douglas Laing’s Old Malt Cask