Mar 132018

The jewel in the crown of the 2018 Whisky Live bottlings is Tomer Goren’s 37 year old Port Ellen. Tomer is the proprietor of the Whisky Live franchise in Israel, and to celebrate the show’s fourth return to Israel, Tomer bottled a refill sherry cask of a 1979 Port Ellen under his own private label.

Official Glass of Whisky Live Tel Aviv 2018

There will be 241 bottles available from this refill sherry hogshead, and they’ll be going on sale at Whisky Live at a price point that’s well under the market price for comparable bottles.


Goren’s Whisky Port Ellen 1979, 37 Year Old Refill Sherry Cask, Bottled for Whisky Live Tel Aviv 2018 (44.8% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Copper, very slow and thin legs running sluggishly off a sturdy necklace.

Nose: Dignified and warm, with dried fruit (dried peaches and apricots, with a hint of prune), cinnamon, clove, oak and rum cake. Light notes of peat, with time bringing out some notes of a floral bouquet, notes of green leaves and vanilla come in after some time in the glass.

Palate: The peat shows up first, with wood spices and some pepper. Ash follows, with a sweet wash across the tongue on its heels, with hints of those dried fruit.

Linger: Wet peat and a dryness on the tongue. The ash from the palate carries over, with a peppery ring around the gullet. After about two minutes, some bitterness joins the linger.


The sherry effect is a bit toned down, and would not qualify as a sherry bomb, but the overall effect it has on the whisky is very nice and refined. There’s something fresh about this whisky even through 37 years in the cask, and while the peat is all but lost on the nose, it’s very much there on the palate. All in all, this whisky deliveres quite a bit of value for its cost.

Official sample provided be Goren’s Whisky.

Oct 172015

I visited Douglas Laing in Glasgow the other week. I will have a full report of the most enjoyable visit, but for today I wanted to review the Christmas edition of Big Peat, out every year for the holidays at Cask Strength. This year there were two important developments, both of which were mentioned on this blog, and yet they merit mention: First is the creation of the Remarkable Regional Malts range to incorporate the four regional malts – Big Peat, Scallywag, Timorous Beastie and Rock Oyster; the second is the addition, during 2015, of a cask strength Scallywag (reviewed here), joining the Big Peat Christmas edition in the range of limited editions, a trend I expect will be extended to other whiskies in the range.

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The regular edition has become a mainstay for peat lovers (reviewed here), made of a vatting of Ardbeg, Caol Ila and Bowmore, with some Port Ellen in the blend. Incidentally, I asked Jan Beckers during my visit how many Port Ellen casks he estimates to be still in existence around the world. Obviously I didn’t get a number (and I wasn’t expecting one), but he did seem to think that it’s not going to be running out too quickly.

Either way, Big Peat is here to stay, and it’s time to dive into this year’s Christmas Edition:

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Douglas Laing Big Peat Christmas Edition 2015 (53.8% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Pale gold, pretty necklace on glass releasing thin legs pretty slowly. It’s a pretty effect in the glass.

Nose: A fresh, almost “green” peat, pine needles and freshly cut pine wood, the nose very much suggests a carpenter’s workshop. The green leaves and fresh vegetation come back after the addition of a few drops of water, with fresh ground pepper and brine.

Palate: Sweet, somewhat lemony and peaty with ash, vanilla like sweetness on the palate with a numbing sensation on the back of the roof of the mouth. Slightly drying with spice becoming dominant alongside the peat.

Linger: Very sweet with bitter citrus peel notes, the peat settles in the back of the throat, and the mouth remains ashy and somewhat salty with a tingle on the inside of the cheeks. The finish is long, and that numbing sensation takes a while to abate.


This edition of the Christmas Edition highlights somewhat of a different side of the Big Peat formula. There’s something soft in it, like sitting by the fire in a new log cabin, with the pine resin still faintly noticeable. This is by no means old, but it’s very well put together with a really nice finish.

Official sample provided by Douglas Laing.

Sep 282015

Fittingly, I’m ending the Port Ellen series with a dram shared with me by my friend Henrik, who also shared the Port Ellen dram that kicked this series off. This will also be my last post before returning from The Whisky Show, as I’ll be traveling to Scotland for a few days before the show. I’ll be posting from distilleries and from the Show regularly to Facebook, and if you haven’t followed the blog’s page yet, you can do it here.

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Today’s Port Ellen is the youngest of the bunch, at 15, and really highlights the spirit in a very clean way.

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Scott’s Selection 1983 Port Ellen, Bottled 1998 (58% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold, very slow legs.

Nose: Salt and peat, pines, honey, sweet BBQ, ash, and some floral notes. This is a very clean ex bourbon cask, letting the spirit do most of the talking. After a while in the glass, you get spicy notes predominantly with pepper and also a note of allspice.

Palate: Fizzy, peat and honey, some peppery spice with grapefruit zest. Nothing too complex, but good.

Linger: Smoky citrus and a sweet linger with pet and spice in the back of the throat. The linger is medium in length.


15 and very clean, this is probably as close to Port Ellen spirit as you can get. Fetching indeed!

Sep 252015

Like Brora, Port Ellen was only operational for 15-16 years before being finally closed in 1983. For Brora, it was simply making the old Clynelish distillery operational again as a temporary measure to make peated whisky while Islay was suffering from a drought. Port Ellen had been, before two more still were added in 1966, mothballed for almost 40 years, not having produced whisky since 1929, shortly after being acquired by DCL.

While alive, Port Ellen distillery was never more than a stopgap and afterthought for DCL/UD/Diageo, and came of interest only posthumously. As you could have told from the previous posts in this series, I think that, in general, Port Ellen is somewhat overrated and had it not been closed, it would have just been another of the Diageo workhorse distilleries swallowed into the Johnny Walker behemoth, just another Caol Ila.

This does not mean, in any way, that I’d turn down a dram of Port Ellen or that I’ll do any less footwork to sample expressions, just that I think that the hype is somewhat out of proportion.

But there is a real exception to my general disenchantment: sherry casks, and in particular first fills. In those, the Port Ellen spirit shines, and the expression reviewed today is clearly one of those. It shines brightly!

This Signatory Vintage is a 1982 that was matured for 25 years in a first fill sherry butt, presented at full cask strength of 58%. Despite it’s potency, it needs no water, and its full bodied sweetness is a delight to all senses. So on to the tasting:

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Signatory Vintage 1982 Port Ellen, Distilled 11.11.1982, Bottled 30.11.2007 from Sherry Butt 2844, Yield 526 Bottles (58% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Dark bronze, thick legs with a residual ring.

Nose: Dried fruit and smoke, with notes of coffee, dark chocolate, dried apricots and some smoke in the background. This one could fool you as a Benromach. The sherry influence here is really strong. The nose goes dry and salty with some leather joining in after a drop or two of water.

Palate: Thick and viscous with treacle, tobacco, peat. This is very drinkable without water despite the high ABV. Some ash, warm wood spices, oak, wood fire and smoke. This dram is very meaty and robust.

Linger: Sweet on the tongue, smoky and dry. Ash remains on the tongue. The smoky sweetness goes on and on for a really long time.


This is, by far, the best Port Ellen I’ve had. Beefy, thick, complex and highly satisfying, this is a “smoky Mortlach”. Wow, what a cracking dram!

Slainte Yori, Thanks for sharing this beauty! 

Sep 222015

I think overall, this is my favorite expression of them all and with no further ado, the tasting notes:

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Port Ellen 6th Annual Release (2006), Vintage 1978, 27 Year old (54.2% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold, very thin and slow legs coming off a long lasting ring.

Nose: The peat is, by far, the most pronounced in the five expressions. This peat has quite the BBQ aroma with fresh green leaves, salt and malt. Water brings out a lot of honey and mellows the smoky peat.

Palate: Honey and peat with pomelo (citrus grandis). Water brings out more spice and some fizz with more grapefruit like bitterness.

Linger: Sweet averall with a bitter smoke tang. Some dryness and a lingering spiciness. The finish is the best of the five drams.


This is the most refined of the five expressions tasted in this flight. To me, this is the quintessential bourbon cask matured Port Ellen. The next post in the series, number eight, will venture into sherry territory….