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.
Springbank’s warehouses only contain a few casks of 20 years or older. No matter what cask in was in before, all of these 20+ casks are reracked into sherry casks, in order to have the required profile of the 21 Year Old.
Springbank 21 yo (46%, OB 2013, 1680 btl.)
Nose: quite subtle, with more fruity notes than obvious sherry. Pears and melons, nectarines, maybe a bit of mango. Sweet barley and honey. Some floral notes (rose petals). A hint of wax and new leather. Mouth: oily and easy-going. Never really punchy. Garden fruits (pear, apple peel, unripe apricot), with waxy / mineral notes behind them. Gentle brine and nutty notes. Aniseed and clove. A little tobacco, even a hint of peat. Finish: quite long, on crystallized fruits with minerals and a soft oaky touch.
A fine but quite reticent Springbank. It shows a nice sense of subtlety and oldness, but it’s way behind the old bottlings and also behind the 2011 edition. Good but not worth the asking price. Around € 275 if you can still find a bottle.
Nose: well yes, a bit weird, but not foul or anything. Malty notes and something metallic. Vegetal oils. Hay and dried flowers. Maybe a little plastic. Mouth: totally wrecked now. Holds the middle between a jawbreaker candy aroma, parma violets, lavender soap, cologne and fabric softener. I’m tempted to find out whether this whisky would make my laundry easy to iron. Finish: way too long, way too bizarre.
In terms of distillation errors (specifically FWP scents) this is a perfectly educational bottling. Otherwise: avoid at all cost. One of the worst whiskies I’ve ever tried. Don’t even think of tasting something else the same day.
Svenska Eldvatten is an independent bottler in Sweden, run by Tommy Andersen and Peter Sjögren. Their bottlings (whisky and rum), with nice minimalist labels, have a decent reputation in Sweden and start getting noticed abroad.
Today we’re trying a 1979 single cask blend. That means the malt and grain components were blended at birth in November 1979, and matured together in a sherry butt for over 33 years.
Vintage 1979 – 33 yo blend (52,2%, Svenska Eldvatten 2013, 197 btl.)
Nose: very nuanced. Subtle plums and raisins, as well as some redcurrants / blueberries. Some nutty notes and very soft vanilla. A nice sense of oldness too: precious woods and wax candles. The grains are hardly noticeable, or rather very well integrated (a very subtle pineapple / coconut combination). All very subtle but very good. Mouth: great, that subtle tropical side comes out even more now. A little mango and passion fruit (Irish style). Apricots. Oranges and banana. Definitely less sherried than on the nose. Some green tea, gingery heat and a few zesty notes, but no excessive dryness or woody notes. Pink grapefruit, a little vanilla and honey. Finish: long, with a fruity sweetness, chocolate and soft hints of walnuts.