The Kinship Port Ellen 34 Year Old

Distillery: Port Ellen
Age: 34 years old
ABV: 61.7%
Bottler: Hunter Laing
Cask: Sherry Cask
More Info: WhiskyBase

In the wake of this year’s Feis Ile (The Islay Festival of Malt and Music), Hunter Laing have released a set of six extremely rare whiskies to celebrate Islay whisky – The Kinship range.

Hand-picked by legendary distiller Jim McEwan (formerly of Bruichladdich and Bowmore), these whiskies represent the best and rarest examples of Islay spirit. They also mark the creation of Laing’s brand new distillery “Ardnahoe” which is situated on the shores of the Sound of Islay, close to Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain.

I’m a massive Bruichladdich fan so I’m delighted that Jim McEwan will be production manager when the distillery goes into operation early in 2018.

Anyway, on with the Kinship whisky! The oldest and rarest in the range is this: a sherried Port Ellen that was distilled shortly before the distillery’s closure in 1983.

Let’s get it in the glass!

Nose: Thick candle wax, menthol, dried rosemary. New leather and citrus peel. Quite maritime in a minerally way – think chalky clifftops on a windy day. With water becomes more citrusy and a little soapy, like washing up liquid (but in a good way). Over time it gets sweeter and richer with vanilla cake sponge.

Palate: Lemon throat sweets, brown sugar, clove oil, sour cherries and gentle wood smoke.

Finish: Tingly, ashy and long. Creamy oak and a touch of vanilla.

Jim McEwan described this as “a tidal wave in a glass”. The nose is indeed a powerhouse and it transports me directly to being outdoors on the Scottish coast – much like Lagavulin 12 or a cask-strength Caol Ila.

The palate, though smoky, is a lot gentler – even at the full 61.7% strength – and you get to enjoy a deeply pleasant and life-affirming finish that lasts and lasts.

Frankly, I was a little concerned that this had spent 34 years in sherry. For my palate, that can really spoil a good whisky. Luckily, my fears are unfounded – this must’ve been a good quality refill cask and at the incredibly high ABV it’s had a remarkably slow and careful maturation over those years allowing the spirit to dominate the flavour, not the cask.

All in all, this is a really elegant and well-rounded whisky – classy, complex, and delivering all that coastal/citrus goodness you’d hope to get from a Port Ellen.

Many thanks to Nickolls and Perks for sending me this sample! Now bear with me while I weep at how badly I can’t afford whisky like this…

Currently, these Kinship bottles are available from the Ardnahoe Distillery Shop on Islay. The Port Ellen is £1,800 per bottle.