Here’s a treat from the last days of Port Ellen. This Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask release was distilled within two months of the distillery shuttering its gates once and for all.
I’ve read and heard that Port Ellen’s closure had as much to do with inferiority of distillate as it did with being surplus to requirements at the nadir of the early ’80s whisky crash. Let’s call this the ‘Great Malt Depression’. Whether or not that perceived inferiority was a reality or not is not something I’ve been able to determine for myself, simply because the only Port Ellens I’ve tried to date have all been at least 20 years of age. It’s hard to argue with the fact that 20 years in a barrel is going to do good things for almost any whisky. The true test, of course, would be sample the young malt (or even new make spirit) alongside a young Caol Ila and young Lagavulin from the same era and see if there was a noticeable disparity.
At this point though, I’m not really sure and don’t really care. What can be claimed with a reasonable amount of certainty – and supported by empirical evidence (however subjectively assessed) – is that Port Ellen is definitely a spirit that ages well. Further, in the interest of greater understanding, this is a subject to which I’m more than happy to devote research time.
This particular bottling is one from the warehouses of Douglas Laing (long before the brothers split the company). The Laings seem to have been sitting on a gold mine of Port Ellen, and if the fates are kind, they still are. ATW’s own deviant, Maltmonster, put together his own assessment on what he believes are remaining PE stocks in a feature piece here. Hmmmm. Only time will tell, I suppose, but hopefully he’s well shy of the true numbers.
This make went into wood as a babe in 1983 and came out a strapping young 20-something in 2006. Those interim 23 years were spent coming of age in a refill sherry butt, which eventually conceded a total of 549 siblings (errr…bottles).
Nose: Very ‘Port Ellen-esque’. Briny, oily and citric. Oysters on the half shell. Smoke and a bit of peat, which seems to be riding off into the sunset. More salt and iodine. Deepest of dark fruit threads. Maybe (just maybe) some very dry pithy grapefruit. Very nice nose…almost classic Port Ellen.
Palate: Not quite as strong as the nose, but still damn fine. Bold and citric. Some chocolate. Salty and smoky. Kinda flinty. Fades into the cereals.
Overall quite typical and expected. And that’s a good thing.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt