Port Ellen

Review: Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Port Ellen

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Last year, Johnnie Walker launched what turned out to be one of my favorite whiskies of 2017 – the Blue Label Ghost and Rare series. The introductory blend was built around Brora, a distillery that closed in the early 1980s.  I loved the whisky so much that, upon tasting and writing my review, immediately bought a bottle.  I probably should have bought two…

For the second edition of Ghost and Rare, Johnnie Walker Master Blender Dr. Jim Beveridge started this blend with malt from another classic distillery – Port Ellen. Beveridge also used grain whiskies from the closed distilleries Caledonian and Carsebridge.  The three whiskies comprise the “ghost” portion here.  Additionally, rare malts from Mortlach, Dailuanie, Cragganmore, Blair Athol, and Oban are included.

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Though there’s no age statement on the label, press materials state all whiskies used in this blend are at least 20 years old.  The whole thing’s bottled at 43% abv and available for a suggested retail price of $349.99, which is less expensive than the first release.

The nose is rich and full of stewed orchard fruit, tropical fruit, and brine alongside some salted caramel and fresh herbs. This whiskey is velvety and a bit oily on the tongue. More salted caramel on entry, with sweet smoke and spice building. Fresh and candied fruit give way to a sprinkling of herbs, minerals, and tobacco leaf. The long finish sees grilled pineapples and seaweed.IMG_4014-2.jpgTalk about an enjoyable pour! Johnnie Walker Ghost and Rare Port Ellen sort of reminds me of a fruitier version of John Walker King George V. It starts off sweet and becomes less so as the whisky swirls around the palate. Great development of flavors and complexity. The Port Ellen in the blend stands, adding its signature smoke and maritime notes. The old grain whiskies add a sturdy background, allowing the malt whiskies to shine.  Again, a delicious and intriguing blend from the House of Walker. Highly recommended! 9/10

Johnniewalker.com

Thanks to Diageo for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Port Ellen 37-Year-Old Single Malt Whisky (2016) Review

Ah, the venerable Port Ellen.  The cult favorite, or at least among the whisky obsessed.  This 16th release of the infamous Islay whisky is also the oldest ever released.  Distilled in 1978, this bottling was drawn from refill American oak hogsheads and refill European oak butts.  Since the distillery’s shutdown in 1983, we’ve seen a slow but steady trickle of Port Ellen hit the market.  But there is only so much left, which partially explains the $4,000 price tag.  

It took some time (and a few drops of water) for this cask strength whisky (55.2% abv) to open up. When it did, I was greeted by hints of apricot, seaweed, leather, tropical fruit concentrate, peat smoke and carmelized wood sugars. The palate is built on a foundation of sweet peat smoke, but it’s not heavy. Ethereally floating on top are hints of guava, lemon peel, old wood, and vanilla custard, as well as a touch of seaweed and leather (rancio?). The finish is long, leaving hints of light smoke and salted, slightly rotten tropical fruit.

Surprisingly lively for a 37 year old whisky. In fact, I’m the same age and it’s probably livelier than I am! Another spectacular bottling of Port Ellen.  Get this one while it’s still around. 9.5/10