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.

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Port Ellen 1978 (2nd Release)

Distillery: Port Ellen
Bottled: 2002, Distilled: 1978
Age: 24 years old
ABV: 59.35%
Cask: Bourbon cask

Nose: Leather and old books, sherbet, damp wood. Rain smell. Pebble beach.

Palate: Sweet lemon candy, brine, soft ashy smoke. Oily mouthfeel, like runny honey. A little fragrant floral note too, something like the rosewater flavour of Turkish delight.

Finish: Savoury, nutty aftertaste. Cloves, black pepper, tobacco leaf. A little more sherbet tingle.

Like smoking a mild, sweet cigar by a fire in an old antique shop after eating a lemon meringue pie. Glorious.

Remarkably smooth and mellow for a 59% cask strength Islay. 24 years in barrel have created a really round, soft flavour so the peat shout is now all but a whisper. This has softened the character to one with more ashy, sooty notes than fresh smoke. Sort of like the dry, dusty embers of a beach fire…

As expected with Port Ellen, there’s a distinctively lemon-sherbet nose amidst a pleasant woody dampness, hints of dusty leather armchair. Also plenty of clear coastal notes of sea salt and pebble beach.

Thanks very much to the Blankenstijn family at WhiskySample.nl for the taster. Sadly, there are no more samples of this bottling left now, though there are still some unofficial bottlings available.

Dramming Through The Snow

Hope everyone’s having a great Christmas!

I’ve had the busiest December I can ever remember. Our house purchase finally completed so we’ve been frantically moving in and unpacking. Our baby is due any day now so we’ve been buying all the clothes and bits and bobs that little humans need.

Into the mix we’ve had all the usual Christmas business of cooking, wrapping, unwrapping and visiting.

Luckily, I’ve still found some time to relax and enjoy a dram or two here and there over the holidays.

Up first, a popular little number from Down Under:

Sullivan’s Cove French Oak

Distillery: Sullivan’s Cove
Bottled: 2013
Age: 12 years old
ABV: 47.5%
Cask: French Oak (Port Cask)

Nose: Vanilla bean, red currants, red apples.

Palate: Muscavado sugar and meadow flowers with more soft fruit. A definite flavour of red wine gums, with a wonderful waxy mouthfeel.

Finish: Honey and spicy oak, cardamon, a touch of clove.

So, this one had a lot of attention after winning a slew of awards in 2013 and 2014 (see Master of Malt for a list). Australian whisky isn’t something you see every day, so it’s a pleasure to try a sample

I do like the very waxy, wine-gum-esque mouthfeel and the notes of soft red fruits – it’s not a combination I’ve come across before as far as flavour profiles go.

I’ve seen the French Oak on sale at staggering prices and it’s nigh-on-impossible to get hold of a bottle unless you’re buying at auction. It’s very nice, but I think the huge amount of media attention it’s received has inflated the expectations (and price) beyond a level the whisky can represent. It’s good stuff, but I think the scarcity and novelty of it is driving the price far more than the liquid itself.

A bar in Manchester is selling 2.5cl measures for £16 a pop. I bought my 5cl sample from The Whisky Tasting Club for a mere £9. Bargain!

Lagavulin 12 (2014)

Distillery: Lagavulin
Bottled: 2014
Age: 12 years old
ABV: 54.4%
Cask: Bourbon Cask

Nose: Wet rocks, fresh peat, sea air – a hint of seaweed and brine. Varnish and lacquer.

Palate: Viscous and oily, zesty and savoury smoke. Woody tobacco flavours.

Finish: Smooth and oaky with a touch of black pepper.

I do love a Lagavulin 12. The 16 is sublime but I like the unsherried character of the younger brother – that lack of sweet edge reveals some very tasty savoury elements. And a cask-strength Islay is always a winner in my book.

Sample came from the lovely chaps at Master of Malt for just £7.72.

Bowmore Feis Ile 2014, 1989

Distillery: Bowmore
Bottled: 2014
Age: 24 years old
ABV: 53.3%
Cask: Bourbon cask and French wine barrique

Nose: Pithy orange, candy, white chocolate ganache, roses, and a faint whiff of the sea.

Palate: Tart and tangy fruits. Blood oranges, raspberry, a touch of bitter marmalade with sweet fragrant smoke running throughout.

Finish: Parma violets and love hearts – a fruity sherbet explosion.

My gosh, wow. I can see why people queue-up for days outside the distillery to get their mitts on this stuff. It’s absolutely bloody lovely.

Sample came from the lovely chaps at Master of Malt for £29.63. Not bad, given the bottle sets you back £465. Sadly, it’s all gone now…

Port Ellen 1978 (2nd Release)

Distillery: Port Ellen
Bottled: 2002, Distilled: 1978
Age: 24 years old
ABV: 59.35%
Cask: Bourbon cask

Nose: Leather and old books, sherbet, damp wood. Rain smell. Pebble beach.

Palate: Sweet lemon candy, brine, soft ashy smoke. Oily mouthfeel, like runny honey. A little fragrant floral note too, something like the rosewater flavour of Turkish delight.

Finish: Savoury, nutty aftertaste. Cloves, black pepper, tobacco leaf. A little more sherbet tingle.

Like smoking a mild, sweet cigar by a fire in an old antique shop after eating a lemon meringue pie. Glorious.

Remarkably smooth and mellow for a 59% cask strength Islay. 24 years in barrel have created a really round, soft flavour so the peat shout is now all but a whisper. This has softened the character to one with more ashy, sooty notes than fresh smoke. Sort of like the dry, dusty embers of a beach fire…

As expected with Port Ellen, there’s a distinctively lemon-sherbet nose amidst a pleasant woody dampness, hints of dusty leather armchair. Also plenty of clear coastal notes of sea salt and pebble beach.

Thanks very much to the Blankenstijn family at WhiskySample.nl for the taster. Sadly, there are no more samples of this bottling left now, though there are still some unofficial bottlings available.


My goodness, what wonderful whisky…

Much love to one and all and best wishes for the new year – here’s to all the drams to come in 2015.

Sláinte!