This Port Ellen 1983 is one of the new releases from Maltbarn, presented at The Whisky Fair in Limburg, yet it was bottled back in 2012.
Port Ellen is virtually impossible to get these days, especially for independent bottlers. Maybe this was a leftover or ‘lost stock’, or maybe Martin Diekmann already bought them some time ago and decided to wait a while before bringing them to the market.
Port Ellen 29 yo 1983 (52%, Maltbarn 2012, bourbon cask, 86 btl.)
Nose: very pure, with classic notes of linseed oil and walnuts. Tarry ropes, wet stones, a bit of soot, tar and charcoal. Hints of camphor. A nose that stays on the mineral / coastal side – no loud vanilla or sweetness here, although there is definitely an almond and citrus roundness after a while. Unfolds nicely – not immensely complex, but rather perfectly on target. Mouth: definitely more sweetness now. Sweet peat, creamy lemon and almond oil. Cocoa and a vague fruitiness. A little ginger with briny notes. Fades on white pepper and ashes, with a soft herbal bitterness. Finish: long, still quite balanced. Salty almonds and ashes.
An excellent Port Ellen. On the nose it seemed to be too mineral / rough for my preferences, but it gains balance over time and comes out quite wonderfully. Really nice but expensive: around € 600.
I guess this could be something we’re going to see more often in the future: intentional delaying (not to say speculation) among bottlers, especially for rare distilleries. If you don’t need the cash right away, then you might as well bottle a cask and keep the bottles behind to release them at a later point, at a higher price. At the time of bottling, merely two years ago, this would have been sold for around € 250.
New Archives releases have arrived. After the fishes of Samoa, the label of this Littlemill 1988 is adorned with another sea creature, some kind of crab. The series is called Voyage dans l’Amérique Méridionale.
Nose: starts on the grassier side of Littlemill, with a bit of oak dust and chalk. The some waxy and grainy notes before moving to fruits. Red apples. Peaches, grapefruits and green banana. Hints of limoncello. After a while, a nice soft strawberry note and vanilla. Mouth: quite typical again. This time the creamy fruits come out first. Banana and sweet pear, followed by sharper and more bitter notes. Ginger, lemon zest, grapefruit. Resin and anise, maybe even something synthetic in the background (glue). Finish: long, bittersweet, in line with the rest.
Really good, what did you expect? I didn’t really get a ‘Holy Crab!’ experience though. Around € 135, available from the Whiskybase shop.
In the upper regions of the Johnnie Walker range, this Platinum Label is the only one to have an age statement: all of its components are 18 years old.
It sits just under the most expensive Johnnie Walker Blue Label and above the Gold Label Reserve, which has now lost its previous 18yo statement and seems to be discontinued altogether in some countries. Not sure how the marketing guys explain all this shifting around, to me it just seems confusing…
Johnnie Walker 18 yo Platinum Label
(40%, OB 2013)
Nose: subtle, as you would expect from 40%, but quite nice. Fruity core: apricots, pears, a hint of pineapple, golden raisins. Also a citrusy note. Soft leathery notes that hint towards older Speyside whiskies, and a very subtle touch of wood smoke in the background. Quite rich for a blend – the biggest compliment is probably that it noses like a (light) single malt. Mouth: smooth, although disappointingly smooth now. Sugary and watery – no recognizable fruits. Evolves towards herbal notes and bittersweet caramel towards the end. More typical blend notes (grains) now, and still a hint of smoke. Not bad, but less convincing than the nose. Finish: medium long, sweet, malty and peppery.
A sweet and spicy Johnnie Walker. Platinum Label has a really nice nose, sure it’s soft, but it’s hardly recognizable as a blend. The palate is too bland and caramelly to convince me and certainly less complex than a single malt of the same price. Around € 60 but price differences between shops tend to be high.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to spend today’s prices for new Port Ellen releases… easily € 600 even from independent bottlers. No matter how rare they now are, that’s well above my personal limit.
Luckily we have a small stock hidden away, bought in better times. Like this one, a Port Ellen 1982 single cask bottled by Douglas Laing for The Nectar in 2009.
Port Ellen 26 yo 1982 (56,2%, Douglas Laing OMC for Daily Dram 2009, refill hogshead, ref. 4900, 193 btl.)
Nose: quite vibrant. One of these Port Ellens that strike a nice balance between coastal sharpness and vanilla smoothness. Above average medicinal notes, rather than plain peat. Pine needles and wet tree leafs. Bright citrus notes. Nice grassy notes, evolving towards peppery notes. A fresh orange / banana / apple fruitiness in the background. Very complex. Mouth: more power, more peat, more sharpness. Very punchy, with pepper, salt, lemon and peat smoke. Still some sweetness (oranges, honey, vanilla). Fades on grassy notes and ginger. Finish: very long, quite sugary, with a few maritime notes and lemon peel.
Simply excellent Port Ellen. Douglas Laing owned a large number of casks from this distillery, and The Nectar surely knew which one to pick. Intense, but showing a marvelous amount of tiny notes and delicate refinements.
Diurachs are the inhabitants of the Isle of Jura – their symbol is stamped on the bottle. Like the people, the whisky is said to have a strong character.
Most official Jura releases now have a nickname. Jura 10 Year Old is Jura Origin. The limited 12 Year Old is called Jura Elixir. The peated versions are Superstition and Prophecy. Jura Duirach’s Own is the 16 Year Old.
Jura Diurach’s Own is first matured in American white oak and spends the last two years in Oloroso sherry casks (Amoroso actually). We’re trying the European version at 40%. It seems the US version is bottled at a higher 43%.
Isle of Jura ‘Diurach’s Own’
(40%, OB +/- 2014)
Nose: pretty rich. There’s a honeyed base with fudge and caramel. A few hints of mixed berries and chocolate. Subtle coastal notes and a clear note of pine trees and resin. Sweet (caramel) and sour (citrus) combination. Mouth: really sweet, very caramelly. Butter pastry. Vanilla custard. Maple syrup. A bit too sticky sweet for me, although it returns nicely to spiced oak and Mexican chocolate. Subtle clove. Finish: hesitating between the milk chocolate sweetness and drying oak.
Diurach’s Own is really okay – probably the best of the core range bottlings. On the other hand I can’t say it’s complex or really balanced. For milk chocolate lovers. Around € 50.
Nose: fruity fruity! Mangos, oranges, apples. Lime and banana. A good dose of vanilla as well. Less of the mineral / grassy notes we saw in similar casks, or so it seems. Maybe a little beeswax. Mouth: excellent. A slightly Irish fruitiness, with banana, maracuja and tangerines. A hint of pink grapefruit bitterness. More than a hint of tropical fruits, you get it. Lemon pie and a hint of barley sugar. Quite some grassy notes / green tea as well. Finish: long, more zesty fruits with a hint of aspirin sharpness.
I’ve reviewed +/- 20 ex-boubon Littlemill 1988-1992 expressions in the last two years and this is one of my favourites. Recommended. Around € 150.
ps/ Picture is slightly different, waiting for the new label, sorry.
This Ardbeg 21yo was finished for three months in a tiny 50 litre Pedro Ximénez cask. It’s part of the Darkness! series by Master of Malt, but… well… it isn’t dark at all. They say it has taken over the dark character of the sherry cask though. Another funny thing is the low ABV – I suppose it’s cask strength, which probably means the cask had to be emptied due to exceptional angel’s share?
Darkness! Ardbeg 21 yo (40,1%, Master of Malt 2014, P.X. finish, 50 cl.)
Nose: maybe not a classic sherry influence, but rather a deep sweetness coating the usual Ardbeg spirit. Apple butter, sweet lemonade, peaches on syrup and blackberry jam. It’s so thick it manages to get on top of the Islay character. Sooty notes, sweet tobacco and just tiny hints of olive brine are in a second row. Mouth: very thick and sweet again, which helps to mask the relative softness. Semi-dried plums, golden raisins and caramelized apple. Melon candy. Lots of sugared almonds. Still a background of smoke and sweet peat. Hints of lacquered bacon as well. Fades on milk chocolate. Finish: not very long, chocolaty and candied.
You really have to have a sweet tooth to appreciate this one. Very sugary, really candied. I wouldn’t call this dark, at least not darker than regular Ardbegs… but tasty it is. Around € 150 – sold out seconds after its release last week.
This is one of the festival bottlings of the The Whisky Fair 2014 held in Limburg, Germany last weekend. It is a peated Isle of Jura 1989 bottled by Signatory Vintage. There’s also a sister cask #30725 which was bottled at 46%.
Isle of Jura 24 yo 1989 (58,8%, Signatory Vintage for Whisky Fair 2014, peated bourbon barrel #30724, 193 btl.)
Nose: the peat isn’t too heavy, which also means complexity is high. Sooty notes, wet newspaper, also quite a lot of coastal notes. Olive juice, kelp, a little iodine… Soft earthy notes and grass. Burnt heather. Ginger. After a while, some creamier notes emerge, really nice ones like ripe gooseberries and strawberries. Toffee too. Great. Mouth: oily, really salty and definitely more peaty / less mellow than the nose suggested. Grapefruit and softly bitter (burnt) herbs. Also a punchy antiseptic side. Sharp brine. Smoked, salted fish and oysters. Still some sweet lemon and vague white fruits underneath. Finish: long, quite sharp and briny again, with grasses, herbs and liquorice.
This Jura 1989 starts really balanced on the nose and becomes a little sharper, more medicinal and peatier on the palate. Nice evolution, nice complexity. Around € 125.
ps/ Cask #30725 comes at a lower strength of 46% (213 btl.). That one shows even more creaminess and fruitiness on the nose. It also rounds off some of the sharpness and herbalness of the palate. In the end it will come down to personal preferences, but complexity is pretty much the same for both versions, and nothing beats 46% in terms of drinkability. Around € 100.