It’s not often that I hold a bottle of Port Ellen in my hands. It’s far less often, even, that the bottle is mine. Now you have to take that literally, since it’s mostly the bottle itself that’s mine, and only 10cl of the contents, since I did a bottle share with this baby.
Last year for Whisky Live Tel Aviv, the organiser released a single cask Port Ellen under his own label ‘Goren’s Whisky’. What peaked my, and a lot of other’s, interest was that this went for ‘only’ € 600!
Some context: Port Ellen closed in 1983 and, with some exceptions, the Port Ellens from the early eighties are considered to be the less interesting ones, especially when compared to the seventies releases of legend. An official bottling from Port Ellen crossed the € 1000 euro mark long before you reach the actual price point. Most other independent bottlers are quite a bit higher than 600 Euros too.
I had a sip of this around my birthday last month, since I turned 37 as well, and yesterday I decided to finish my sample. And write notes, of course!
The shammy leather is real! But this one was stored wet. A bit funky and moldy. Some dry tangerine, one that’s been kept too long. Gentle peat, some band aid, salt.
Gentle but not without an edge. Lots of oak, some hay and straw. A bit of dusty barley. The same leathery funkiness as on the nose, but more subdued. Smoke, but also subdued. Dry, some sweet citrus. Tangerine, pink grapefruit.
The finish is better than the palate, more balanced. The shammy leather is back, but this time it is right. Some smoke, but a bit more warming, more deep, more peaty.
How to review this? In all honesty, I expected more, but I’m not sure more of what. The point is mostly that when I decided to buy a sample of whisky for the price of a very decent bottle, I want my mind to be blown, or very close to that. It didn’t happen.
Apparently this is from a sherry hogshead, but I didn’t really get any of the cask influence beyond ‘oak’, so it must’ve been a rather tired cask. Maybe a somewhat fresher bourbon cask would’ve pushed this up to 90 points?
Most flavors were rather predictable, which I consider a good thing. You want a Port Ellen to be like Port Ellen, or else you could’ve just bought a Caol Ila from the same age at 30/40% of this one’s price. However, it just wasn’t incredibly good. It’s very good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not THAT good.
Port Ellen 1979-2017, 37yo, Sherry Hogshead, 44.8% – Goren’s Whisky for Whisky Live Tel Aviv. Available in the secondary market, starting at € 1600