Gordon and Macphail: Connoisseurs Choice: Port Ellen 1982 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 27 Year: 43%)

(Bottled 2009)

Visual: Clear grain to yellow.

Viscosity: Very fast middle sized streaks.

Nose: Brine. Salt. Fish oil. Seaweed. Slightly antiseptic. Slightly sour white grapes. Little sign of the alcohol presence for the aroma. Water changes little but for making it more salty.

Body: Smooth. Brine. Seaweed. Medicinal. Grapes. Mild chocolate back. White wine. Water brings out the contrast between salt and grapes. More water adds meaty broth.

Finish: Peat, grapes and salt. Caramel after a while. Wet rocks. Milky chocolate.. Water actually makes saltier, like anchovies.

Conclusion: So I finally break open this whisky time capsule from the legendary Port Ellen. 150 Whisky reviews with this as the capstone.

And it is…drum roll please.

Actually (and thankfully) pretty darn nice. First impression are very Islay. Medicinal, salt, brine and seaweeds. The first few moments made me remember my first ever impression of Laphroig all those years back, but as if it had been smoothed by many years in the cask.

What surprised me was for all the salt and medicinal touches, the usual meaty peaty body was very restrained. You only got hints of it late on and when water was added. The base whisky is quite clean as a flavour delivery system.

Instead there is this grape sweetness that rises up over time, and a caramel like finish. Sweetness against medicinal bite makes for an effective combo, and combined with the cleanness of the spirit is very easy to drink. As mentioned it is very smooth, the age has done well to hide the alcohol and let it be the Islay character that is challenging, not the alcohol fire.

Oddly, early on in adding water the whisky becomes more polarised, more salt and more gapes clashing to create a new intensity rather than smoothing it.  More water still settles it once more, so it’s worth having a quick play with water for effect if not flavour.

So is it worth the high, and ever rising, asking price? Considering the age of the whisky the asking price for an independent bottling is high, but not insane. The quality is high, like an easy going Laphroaig if that contradiction is not too much to bear. I think at this point you are paying for the experience more than the whisky.  It does have it’s own unique niche though, nestled between the heavy and light Islays, a bridge between the two. This particular expression furthermore is very smooth yet with good expression of it’s harsh elements.

Admittedly for the cost of this you could get a whole lot of Islay. Lagavulin distillers edition and Laphroaig Quarter cask and 18 year Bowmore.  It isn’t better than having those three bottles, but as a dose of history it is also a very nice whisky.

Background: The 150th Whisky review, and 800th review. A double celebration, and for that only one thing could do. Port Ellen. A distillery that closed back in the early 1980’s and the only Islay whisky I had yet to try. (The second to last for me to review, I’ve still not reviewed the newest Islay’s distillery’s product). I’m a huge Islay fan and this bottling was picked up a year ago.  I knew I wasn’t going to be drinking it for a while, but with Port Ellens legendary status, and the lack of stock, I knew price would only go up. So I bought it while I could rather than pay more later.  My review was based on the price I paid for it a year ago, it’s jumped about a third again since then so take that into account please. Technically I could have kept this unopened and sold in a few years for a nice profit, but sod that, whisky is for drinking.