I’ve had this sample of Port Ellen from a single sherry cask sitting around for a couple of years now—I’ve no idea why I haven’t reviewed it yet. The Whisky Exchange bottled it in 2011 to commemorate the marriage of Beyonce and Jay-Z. It’s a little odd that they did this three years after the fact but maybe they were waiting to see if the marriage would stick. It is an odd choice of distillery to commemorate a wedding though—you’d think they’d pick one that’s still a going concern, not one that had to be shut down. Maybe Sukhinder Singh is more of a Nas fan?
Port Ellens from the last couple of years of the distillery’s life don’t have quite as high a reputation as those distilled in the 1970s but I quite liked the one I previously reviewed (this one from Old Bothwell). Let’s see if this one is as good and if it does the royal couple proud; and if it makes me regret not purchasing a bottle when it was released—I’m not sure how much they asked for it back in 2011 but doubtless it was a fraction of the current going prices for Port Ellens of any quality.
Port Ellen 1982-2011, “Royal Wedding Reserve” (53%; sherry cask 2290; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Rich notes of raisin, dried orange peel, apricot, plum sauce, pipe tobacco and then a bit of gunpowder. The gunpowder expands but is in good balance with the sweeter notes. After a bit the peat finally emerges and it’s a bit farmy and quite mushroomy/earthy; phenolic notes begin to emerge from beneath along with salt and other coastal notes (seashells). With more time the gunpowder slides under the pipe tobacco. A few drops of water amplify the pipe tobacco even more and also pull out more of the phenolic smoke. Some cured ham too now.
Palate: Leads with the mushroomy/earthy notes transitioning into the citrus; a big wave of ashy smoke comes wafting out along with some sweeter notes. On the second sip, the gunpowder shows up and it is a little sharper here than it was on the nose (may be a function of the greater smoke here). With more time the sulphur becomes a little more insistent than I would like but it doesn’t drown out the rest: the orange peel and the earthy peat and the ashy smoke expand too. Water brightens up the citrus and pushes the sulphur back—in fact, those notes move into leathery, beef stock’ish territory.
Finish: Medium. The earthy, smoky thing goes on for a while; towards the end the sulphur becomes the dominant note. As on the palate with water and then there’s more salt; the finish is much longer with water.
Comments: Well, this was very nice indeed. The nose, in particular, was great. The sulphur, which was in such good balance with the other notes on the nose, was just a tad too loud on the palate. Water did fix that but there just wasn’t enough compensatory complexity on the palate to lift it into the 90s for me.
Rating: 89 points.
Thanks to Rich for the sample!