In May last year, it tasted my best – but unfortunately also most expensive – Port Ellen ever. It was the 39 years old The Spirit Safe, bottled in 2018. This second edition in the Untold Stories – 9 Rogue Casks – is even more limited. There are only 1380 bottles in the world. It was presented during the (virtual) Feis Ile 2020 and is a vatting of 9 casks which were found to ‘hold unusual flavour characteristics that stood out from the typical Port Ellen distillery character’ and was deemed unsuitable fort he needs of the blenders at the time. For the anoraks among us, the vatting consists of these 9 ‘rogue casks’: 4 American hogsheads (#1469, #1680, #1747 en # 5176) and 5 European sherry butts (#4890, #4913, #4914, #6806 en #6816), all laid down in 1979. To put that somewhat in perspective for myself: I was 9 years at the time and had yet to see my all time favourite film – The Empire Strikes Back (1981). Just saying. Like her predecessor ‘The Spirit Safe’, she was bottled at cask strength, as luck would have it (?) at the exact same: 50.9%. The price is not the same though. This one has an RRP of 6.500 pounds or some 7.000 EUR. Oh, yes, I say ‘she’ and ‘her’, for this Port Ellen is an elegant lady in my book. A veritable diva. Rightfully so.
Surprising delicate nose on bergamot, linseed oil, almonds and walnuts, lime zest, a cold firepit (the day after). Not neccesarily in that order. Each time I put my nose in the glass – for the occasion I had a 1920s Blender’s Glass on loan, and know now I have to get me a few – she offered something different, but always very pleasant. The peat smoke is there, but like a whisper. There is also a lovely, floral note. Orange blossoms. And even some peach, giving her some lovely sweetness. Very impressive.
O.M.G. Wonderful! We have a winner! The first, careful sip immediately confirms that this Port Ellen is indeed somewhat atypical, but what a taste! This lady is not only very elegant, she is sexy to boot! Delicious notes of pink grapefruit with some pepper, soft oak, lemongrass, capers, cardamom, pipe tobacco and the peel of a lime. The peat is more outspoken than on the nose, creating a lovely smokiness, while still remaining delicate. Some eucalyptus offers a fresh lift. But everything is so delineated, tight, chiselled.
In the lovely long finish I get hints of tea, lime juice, eucalyptus… incredibly good.
I sat there sniffing the emply glass for another hour musing that I’d probably buy a bottle to actually drink if I could afford it. When I had my first sip, I actually cried out ‘We have a winner!’, hence the title of this little piece. She is simply a fantastic and absolutely intriguing malt, that effortlessly stumbled into my personal top 10. And to think there are plans for a third release in the Untold Stories to celebrate the reopening of the ditillery. Reckon I have enough time to get a second mortgage?