Port Askaig is the name under which the Whisky Exchange has bottled a number of Caol Ilas. Why it is that they release some Caol Ilas with the distillery name under their Single Malts of Scotland label but also have this parallel Port Askaig line, I don’t know. Generally, when bottlers do these “mystery malt” labels it’s safe to assume that it’s partly because they want to leave themselves wiggle room if the source of the malt changes. So your random Islay malt with a non-distillery name could be peated Bunnahabhain most of the time and Laphroaig some other time. And, of course, by not publishing the actual distillery’s name they’re also able to coyly suggest or not discourage you from believing that what you have is a malt from a distillery you might prize more than the one it is actually from. To be fair, it’s also true that some distilleries may ask particular bottlers to not identify them (for fear of diluting their own brand) and that some bottlers may wish to create and promote their own brands.
For what it’s worth, the received wisdom is that all the Port Askaigs have been Caol Ilas, and based on the few I’ve had, I’d not disagree.
I opened this bottle for one of my local group’s regular tastings not too long ago; it was very well received and I’ve been drinking it down at a steady clip since.
Port Askaig Harbour 19 (45.8%; Speciality Drinks/TWE; from my own bottle)
Nose: Cereals and then a big whack of phenolic smoke, turning ashy as it goes. Some lime after that and then increasingly coastal with seashells, brine and sweeter medicinal notes; some ink too. Brighter with water—more citrus and some green apple too.
Palate: Very much as on the nose but with a sweeter arrival and less ash. In fact, it’s sweet all the way through and there’s not a whole lot of development. Nice mouthfeel. With more time the citrus from the nose shows up here too—somewhere between lime and grapefruit—and it’s a little maltier too now. With even more time, the inky note from the nose also shows up and brings a lot of iodine with it. As on the nose with water: brighter and sharper.
Finish: Medium. The sweet smoke peters out and it’s a little saltier at the end. Longer with water and tarrier.
Comments: You could talk me into this being a Laphroaig, Ardbeg or Lagavulin too. It’s a textbook peated Islay of the style and age (with the palate mellower than the nose). I liked it a bit more than the OB Caol Ila 18 but not so very much more; it’s a very drinkable and pleasurable malt but not terribly complex. Better with water, I thought.
Rating: 87 points.