Port Ellen 31yo 1982/2013 (51.5%, Douglas Laing, Old Particular, Refill Hogshead, DL REF 9964, 286 bottles)

Next up, yet another Port Ellen, yes, Master Quill gets spoiled again! This time by Cara Laing ehhh Leggat (daughter of…) and Chris Leggat (now the son-in-law of…). Yes in the time between me receiving this Port Ellen, and reviewing it now, these two got married! Congratulations (again) guys! So let’s call this Port Ellen their wedding dram, shall we?

For those of you who didn’t know already, there have been some changes within Douglas Laing company. Brothers Fred (father of… & father in law of…) and Stewart Laing parted ways and divided the old Douglas Laing firm between themselves. Fred retained the ‘Douglas Laing’ name, ‘The Provenance’ series and ‘Big Peat’ and last but not least acquired the help of daughter Cara, who had to be bought back from Bowmore.

Stewart had to think up a new name: ‘Hunter Laing’ (also a family name) and has the highly succesful ranges of the ‘Old Malt Cask’ (OMC) and the ‘Old and Rare’ (O&R) series. Although OMC is probably the most impressive series the brothers had together, Fred created the new series of Old Particular, not wholly different from the OMC (and O&R lettering, if you ask me). So the loss of OMC and O&R are almost painlessly intercepted with The ‘Old Particular’ range and the ‘Directors’ Cask’ range. The future is looking great for the Laing’s and Leggats!

Color: Almost copper gold.

Nose: Lovely old and mellow peat, not very smoky, although there is some wood-smoke in here. Swamp-like plants (although this sounds horrible, it’s quite the opposite). The swamp also contained some lavas. Small hints of licorice and tar (worn down tarred rope). Under this all, some yellow sugared fruits want to emerge. Old dried apricots. (No I’m not mad). unusually mellow Port Ellen, but therefore absolutely lovely. Great balance too.

Taste: Sweeeeeeet, sweet and chewy at first. Fruity sweetness with ash and licorice again. Again old peat, very mellow. Small hints of mint (the mint stays in the back of my throat after the finish, it’s absolutely there), almonds and clove. A little bit of wood, but nowhere near the amount to be expected considering the age, also no bitterness. Quite a lively and full-bodied Port Ellen, but not a lot of legs in my glass. Medium finish but that fits the profile, it’s in no way an extreme Islay Whisky, but a more introvert and stylish Whisky. I love it!

Nothing to complain then? Not really, life is great, still having these Whiskies around, although more and more expensive. I was a bit surprised the finish wasn’t longer considering it’s a Port Ellen at 51.5% ABV, and comparing this to DL REF 4112, but really, who cares. The Whisky is great, the packaging looks great, Cara and Chris look great, and at the time of writing, the sun is shining, what more can we ask for. Ehhh, so more Port Ellen maybe…?

Points: 92

Thanks go out to Cara & Chris for providing the sample!


Port Ellen 24yo 1978/2002 “Second Annual Release” (59,35%, OB, 12000 bottles)

Two weeks ago I had a Talisker tasting and unofficially a Port Ellen aftertasting. Somehow one bottle got left behind by its owner. It’s leash bound to a great oak tree, and you can see its sad, not being surrounded by its usual brothers and sisters. I asked its owner if I could play a little with this lost bottle, and he said it was OK. Just to be sure I will bring it back in January. So yes, Master Quill is giving this stray puppy a refuge in Master Quills castle. Nice and comfy near the fire-place.

How nice it is to have another Port Ellen on these pages. This one in particular plays a strange role in the Port Ellen annual release series. First of al this strange ABV. 59,35%. New Japanese measuring equipment on loan? No it’s not that. This one is known to be a little closed. Very closed in fact. I had the chance to try this expression when it was freshly opened and it was really hard to taste this. Very hard to tell what is in there. It was nice, but nothing you’ve come to expect from such a Port Ellen. This time around the bottle is open for a while and less than half full. Is this, one of those whiskies that has to be put on the shelf without its cork, to maximize its breathing? Lets see…

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Leafy, nice liquorice laden peat. And the peat is not very bold mind you. Creamy ashes and some dust. Still it’s closed. I’m trying really hard, even warming the stuff in my hands, with a lid on my glass and without. Yes it does work a little. Doing this trick, brings out a big nice bonfire. Even though it is unbelievably closed it shows a lot of balance. Sniff hard on this one (and you’ll get a new layer of spicy sweetness).

Taste: Yeah! Leafy again, strong, and slightly bitter. Black tea with almonds. Rather sweet and seaside peat. Not completely balanced due to some sourness, from the wood, that takes over the palate straight into the beerlike finish, but the effect doesn’t last. there is a fruityness about it. Like pineapple (sour and sweet), with dried apricot and banana. The finish breaks apart a bit, but you’ll still see the quality. Long finish though.

Well it does demand of you that you’ll work on it since it doesn’t give away its treasures easily, especially on the nose. Probably not the best from the series, but still it oozes Port Ellenness. It is an experience. Freshly opened bottle scored 87 Points, but after extensive breathing I’ll score this:

Points: 87 (sorry no change)

Heartfelt thanks go out to Jos for leaving this bottle behind!

Port Ellen 19yo 1982/2002 (43%, Douglas McGibbon, Provenance, Spring/Spring, Cask #2733)

For the Douglas Laing brand, It all started in 1998 with the Old Malt Cask series, to commemorate their 50 years in business. Therefore if possible the series is bottled at 50% ABV. Later a more luxury series was introduced called The Old and Rare series. Although it is better known as the Platinum Series. In fact there are a lot of ‘names’ on their labels. The third series I would like to mention here is the Douglas McGibbon’s Provenance series. A series placed under the Old Malt Cask series, also with lower ABV, usually 43% or 46%, but also cask strength and small batch versions exist. There are also some newer series, like the Director’s Cut, introduced in 2011 with cask strength single cask single malts and single grains. Other series by Douglas Laing are the Premier Barrel and Douglas of Drumlanrig.

So let’s try an oldie but probably goldie. Yes another Port Ellen. One bottled in 2002. You remember there are a lot of names and stuff on the labels. On this label it is also stated that the whisky was distilled in spring 1982 and bottled in spring 2002.

Color: Gold

Nose: Fresh, lightly peated sea air. Yeasty. Sour fruit, sour cherries and lemons. Small amounts of complex rubber. For me there are two types of rubber here. The orange rubber air tubes you encounter in a laboratory ánd the black inner tube of a bicycle. Slightly sweetish nose and the whole is a bit dirty. Total smell is light, probably through reduction.

Taste: Very grassy, malty and some sweetness. Lemon curd, black and white powder and just now the peat. Bicycle tyre rubber. No laboratory tube. There is also a biological side to it. Hard green leaves and crushed bugs. There is also some bitterness here. There is a lack of balance in the nose. It does have a few distinctive markers but they don’t necessarily work together perfectly.

A bit of a shame this got reduced. For me the ‘rubbers’ would have been great without reduction. Still this is an example of the uniqueness of Port Ellen. It doesn’t compare to all its sisters on Islay. Eternal shame the distillery seized making Single Malts.

Points: 87

Port Ellen 29yo 1982/2012 (55.5%, Old Bothwell, Cask #2041)

Today my good friend Erik L. came over and brought two bottles with him. Today I’ll review the first one of those, yes, another Port Ellen! So when we thought we had it all yesterday with the Blackadder Port Ellen, we continue today with a Port Ellen from Old Bothwell.

Old Bothwell is a company from Bothwell, Lanarkshire Sur near Glasgow Scotland. It’s a company that specializes in bottling their own stock of wines and spirits with the possibility of personalized labels. In the whisky-world they became quite famous for bottling a series of great Port Ellen’s. Alas Old Bothwell just bottled their last cask of Port Ellen, so now they will move into other whiskies. First up are a Tormore 1988/2012 and Macduff 1980/2012.

Color: Gold

Nose: Very peaty and foremost, very smoky at first. Reminds me of one of the Douglas Laing Port Ellen‘s reviewed earlier. Bonfire, lots of fire-parafernalia such as ash and smoke. After (some) breathing, more perfumy and salty peat, it smells a bit like peat from flowers! Very nice balance. Citrus, lemon, and again a bit meaty. Again, I don’t get the rubber Port Ellen’s used to have for me. It’s probably not there in 1982 Port Ellen’s. Fresh, sea-air laden with mint. This has also a vegetal side to it. As you might have guessed, this nose is very nice.

Taste: Half sweet, big bodied and vegetal. Peppered and slightly bitter/woody peat. Ashy. In a good way a lemonade like quality due to some fresh lemon peel and sea air. It definitively reminds me of sea air that can be smelled here in Holland too. Seems to me this has yet to reveal its full potential. The wood here is sour, and leaves a somewhat strange bitterness on the finish.

Let this breathe for a while. I guess the second half of this bottle will be the better half. The bottle I’m tasting now, is almost full. But this Port Ellen already scores…

Points: 89

Port Ellen 26yo 1979/2005 (56.9%, Blackadder, Raw Cask, Sherry Butt #2015, 497 bottles)

Again rummaging through my box with trophies collected on my travels, I found another Port Ellen. I like Port Ellen, so please forgive me, for yet another review. Port Ellen is the closed distillery from the immensely popular island of Islay, known for its peated whiskies. Always around in abundance, prices were ‘moderate’ for a closed distillery from Islay. Today stocks are depleting, and prices tend to rise sky-high, and it won’t be long untill there’s nothing left. Even if casks still lie around, Port Ellen isn’t getting better by ageing even longer. Maybe casks will be transferred into stainless steel holding tanks to stop ageing and fetching a lot of money when bottled is a few years’ time. Who knows. Since 2001 Diageo releases Port Ellen annually in their special release series. The first release fetching at least a 1000 Euro’s at auctions…

Port Ellen was founded in 1825, and was sadly closed like many others in 1983. Although the distillery is dismantled, the site is still there. Today it’s home to Port Ellen Maltings. Where barley is malted and all the other distilleries of the island are customers…

Color: Gold (with black cask sediments, floating around).

Nose: Thick and elegant or is it? Dry Fino Sherry and crushed beetle. Peat and kumquats. It smells like a bush, very vegetal. Black tea and flowery perfume. The citrussy wood is great in this one. When left to breathe for a while it’s wonderful altogether, and a mixture of hot tea, with dry black tea leaves comes even more to the fore. Stunning!

Taste: Thick, spicy, sweaty and sweet. Black and white powder. Very balanced. Alas no Port Ellen rubber. Again Fino Sherry. Bold, round body with distant peat and milk chocolate. Clean at first, and dry,with a very nice gritty and dirty bonfire finish that tends to be sweet and sour (green apples), but not bitter. Every sip is like a chameleon, different every time.

Ahhh, the Raw Cask series, a series where filtration got a new meaning. This is a series where the whisky is certainly not chill-filtered. It is probably filtered through a chicken wire fence. Some people even suggest, the stuff floating in these whiskies have sediment thrown in from anywhere and is not even from the original cask. Well I’d like to believe… It looks original and rustic and I don’t have a clue what it does for the taste. If you drink it all, you can imagine what it does for the mouthfeel, well not much really, the flakes just tend to cling to your palate and tickle. This is a very good Port Ellen and it deserves a well-earned…

Points: 91

Port Ellen 23yo 1983/2006 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, Refill Butt, DL REF 2790, 716 bottles)

Instead of expanding into unchartered territory, let’s do something oppositional and do yet another Port Ellen, and another bottle by Douglas Laing. This time from the old series in the normal scotch whisky bottle and not from the new tall bottle. People tend to think this older look contains better whisky. Let’s see if that’s true. By the way ,I read somewhere that in the few months Port Ellen operated during 1983, there weren’t a lot of good casks around, and they filled almost anything they could get their hands on. This Port Ellen looks quite light in color. Is this from a tired butt or a normal refill Fino butt?

Color: Light gold, almost white wine.

Nose: This leaps out of the glass and can be smelled from a mile away. That’s good! Fruity, musty, animalesk and malty. Salty sea spray, fresh air. Apples with elegant peat and cardboard. Nice distant spice and no wood (tired cask?). Milk chocolate. Yes, this has the kind of orange air tube rubber I like so much in Port Ellen. Actually quite good, I like this nose very much. Does this show how the Port Ellen-spirit actually was? (because of the tired cask)

Taste: Peat and rhubarb. Sweet, big, leafy and chewy. Black tea with clean refined sugar. No rubber here and it’s no monster either. The peat is very mild here and the finish is quite simple. Still it seems to be very balanced, just not very complex. It has the dryness and a bit of the spiciness of the oak, but not the bitterness, and that’s a big plus (not a Chevrolet). It has citrus with cardboard in the finish. If tasted blind, I would have thought it to be some odd ten years younger.

It’s an end of an era, even if it was a tired cask, this is still very typical and good. Really a shame this got closed. In a way it resembles Talisker in it always being decent. This may be no high flyer, but is has a lot of fine moments to give. No I’m not sentimental, this is good in itself. A very nice Islay Whisky. As I’m sipping the last few drops: “Here’s looking at you kid…”

Points: 88

Port Ellen 28yo 1982/2010 (57.5%, Whiskysite.nl, Refill Sherry Puncheon #2039, 100 bottles)

This Port Ellen is from Dutch retailers Whiskysite.nl (100 bottles). It is a cask-share with Belgian retailers QV.ID (72 bottles). Original bottlers Old Bothwell bottled the rest for Germany (Amount of bottles unknown). So there are three different labels for this bottle. Since a Puncheon ranges between 470 and 600 litres, and the angels are not thát greedy, there should be a lot bottled for Germany. Mind you, a Puncheon is never filled to the brim. The bottles gained a reputation quickly and were sold out in a blink of an eye.

Color: Light Gold.

Nose: A day at the beach in the springtime and springtide. A nice musty and fresh Fino Sherry nose. Very distant licorice. No Port Ellen rubber, and not very briny or overly peaty. It’s quite sweet and elegant. The Sherry play a large role in defining this nose. It’s unbelievable how fresh this is. If you give it some time, the tar, smoke and sea saltyness arrive in a very laid back style. Like so many of these, it has a citric component. Since this is no beast at all, you’ll have to give it your full attention. Don’t smoke or eat. Just you with this Port Ellen. It has balance and complexity, but seems so fragile.

Taste: Yeah, creamy, full-bodied Port Ellen. Black and white powder, licorice, vanilla, spicy hay, wow! This has to be cask strength, otherwise it would have been ruined. It hasn’t got a lot of wood (you’ll feel it later on the tongue), but you can detect the toast. Utter balance and very full bodied.

Again no misses with Port Ellen. Very light and delicate, even atypical nose for a Port Ellen, but when you put it in your mouth, the rollercoaster gets going! Beautiful Port Ellen. Ellen’s a nice lass.

Points: 92

Thanks Jack, for the sample!

Port Ellen 25yo 1982/2008 (50%, Douglas Laing, Old Malt Cask, Refill Butt, DL REF 4112, 589 bottles)

Its raining like crazy outside, and I have this Port Ellen on my lectern, so probably no better moment to have a go at this. Seize the day, the moment is now! There may be no tomorrow! Heed the call of the elements!

Douglas Laing sure did have a lot of Port Ellen ex-sherry casks lying around, and a lot of those casks were from 1982. Even though it wasn’t the best of years for Port Ellen (it closed just a year later), a lot of those 1982 casks turn out to be pretty fabulous. I bought this particular bottle because of the word “creosoted” on the label. I definitively want to find out what that tastes like.

Color: White Wine.

Nose: Wow, always a great peat smell, Sweet and succulent, oily, old puffer, kippers and tar. Citrussy and grassy too. Powdery? This really smells like it’s dived up from the bottom of the sea. Even if this turns out not to be the greatest Port Ellen, this nose is all worth it. Dirty and clean at the same time. Ergo very balanced! Smelling this is great but it’s also intriguing. There is more lying around the bend. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is more to it than meets the nose…

Taste: Sweet and rubbery. Ash, liquorice and tarry rope (is this the creosote?). Definitively a fishy note from the peat, what suites this whisky well. Coffee, mocha, very appetizing. For a dead distillery, and a 25yo whisky, this is very lively. Candy with pepper in the finish and some slight bitterness (with tar), from the oak, but it has to be that way.

You might say it’s not up to par to other Port Ellen’s, since you could consider this not to be the most complex example or it’s drinkability and (virtual) lightness. But I’m having a lot of fun with this one, its lively and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. I’m pouring myself another dram of this.

Points: 89