I can't stop thinking about this malt. Over a weekend where I tasted a treasure trove of excellent whiskies (while taking formal notes on none of them), this one seared itself into my brain. I hesitate to tell you how great it is, since it's long gone and there hasn't even been one at auction for years… so the next time a bottle does show up for sale, and I try to get it, I'm gonna be outbid by somebody who read my own damn writeup and decided to pay a shitload to get their own bottle.
Yes, that's how my mind works -- or is it my ego? And my karma. Whatever, I digress…
Selected by and bottled for the PLOWED Society in 2004, this single cask was shared with The Whisky Shop, who handled the formalities/hassles. For those not familiar with PLOWED, I'll leave you to your own research, as their private and rather mysterious nature seems best fit to stay that way. Let's just say that they're in no small part responsible for the explosion of interest in single malts that's now common in every corner of the internet (this site included).
The main quality about this Port Ellen is that it's just very different from the distillery's typical profile, in a really distinct and peculiar way -- but a WOW way.
The nose is so idiosyncratic that I think I could recognize it instantly. Sherried, yes it sure seems to be, but a very atypical type -- and the palate follows suit. The whole experience really has big aspects of a Planters Peanut Bar, or maybe a Payday -- very honeyed and peanutty-buttery-caramelly, nougatty. But not as peanutty as you'd expect from that description, if that makes sense… just notably so. It's a fruited-nutty-caramel flavor, medium-sweet, with complexity that's not overwhelming, but a sort of "subtle complexity" that sneaks up every few sips. Like all of a sudden the finish strikes me with strong coffee, then soon it's not as distinct as I found it before.
Super-solid A, one of the most enjoyable whiskies I've ever tasted.
RETASTE: Again over a long weekend with some truly fantastic malts assembled, I kept finding myself going (sneaking?) back to this. There's some sulphur in here I didn't quite notice before, and the sherry aspects are slightly more traditional-tasting than I recalled. Yet it's still unusual enough, particularly when it comes to the sweeter flavors, that I still feel the same way. (Thanks Marty!)
Nose: A haze of sherry and peat, matchsticks and fruit.
Palate: Wow, totally bizarre stuff. There is definitely that peanutty element that Adam mentions. I get a rather strong dose of sulphur on this by midpalate but it's so well integrated with the peat that it doesn't overwhelm.
The finish is surprisingly light with gentle sherry tones.
Water brings much more fruit to the nose but deadens some of the complexity of the palate.
Really well done and compeltely out of character for a Port Ellen. I'd never have come close to identifying it in a blind tasting.
Starts with; motor oil, winey notes, wood chips and a big citrus kick. There is some sulphur but it surprisingly works for this. There is a mineral/ flint quality here as well much like striking two rocks against one another. Tons of tangy fruit here: young berry, sour cherry, apple skin, grapefruit and pomegranate. I also smell red vines. Yummmmm. There is more peat than I am used to from Port Ellen but its pronounced and clean. A lot of BBQ stuff here; smoke, briquettes, and charred meats. The long finish is mentholated with sweet caramel candy. Water shows more hard fruit candy. Unusual and straying from distillery character but freaking awesome.
I am not usually a big fan of Port Ellen. Way more hype than I think it deserves. This, however, is very un-Port Ellen. This hits more like an old Talisker (thanks Mole). Loads of sulphur - like over-burned match-sticks. I don't think I have ever gotten this from a Port Ellen before. It is really good and likely hails from a sherry cask sulphur candle rather than anything else.
This had so much less of the cinnamon red-hot thing that usually puts me off on Port Ellen (most are too one-note wonders). This is complex and oily and warm peat campfire goodness. A huge malt with a terrifically unusual profile. I like it for being different and fabulously tasty.
N: Funky, sour, some tar and smoke. Opens up with time to show more sherry and BBQ.
F: Wow - a ton of brine, more than I've ever gotten on any Port Ellen. Salted fish, plenty of heat, kind of a cayenne heat. Unfortunately I get a very distinct kind of acrid funk on the palate that I have detected elsewhere, my "burned hair/barbicide" quality.
F: Hot, tarry, woody, with some more of that weird funk.
I'm not in love with this and there's a very specific cause. This has an amount of a very specific note I refer to as "burned hair/barbicide". It's slightly acrid and chemical. It's not always an off-putting note - I got it in trace amounts on the Highland Park for Park Ave but it was an odd if workable combo. However, it also reminds me a lot of an amazingly bad Glen Elgin (which was packed with flaws) and more recently a flawed Brechin. I don't know that it's sulfur (as I've loved many malts referred to by others as sulfured and never found this quality on those), but I'd love to know what exactly it is so I can put a name to it.
That quality, along with the heat (61%!) and a slight sourness made this a really questionable one for me. Water only intensified the bad qualities while tamping down the good stuff.
This one really confused me in a really good way. The flavor profile was made up of much that I'm not typically a huge fan of, but somehow the way it was all put together, the many dimensions of it, really tickled my tongue (yum).
The nose was sour, moldy, sulpheric and of old vegetables...and it was great!
A sweet grassy taste mixed with more of that sour on the palate that really worked for me. It also got a little spicy. So much going on and yet so balanced.
Lasts for a nice long time - the sweetness lingering the most.