I recently had a chance to host Glenmorangie’s David Blackmore for a virtual tasting of the distillery’s Original, 18-Year-Old, and Bacalta expressions. In addition to tasting some wonderful whiskies, we discussed Glenmorangie’s wood management, secondary maturation and more. Enjoy!
Please excuse the echo in the beginning of the video. It corrects itself a couple of minutes in.
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
Auchroisk is another distillery that rarely puts out a single malt, instead relagating the majority of its whisky to use for blends. Here’s its time to shine. This 25-year-old expression was distilled in 1990. Whiskies matured in refill American oak hogsheads and European oak butts were pulled for this release. It’s bottled at 51.2% abv and retails for $450. I have a bottle of the 20-year-old Auchroisk released in 2010, and loved it. What’s five more years of maturation do to this whisky?
The fruity nose features fresh berries and orchard fruits, complemented by the smells of a French bakery, faint butterscotch and light oak. Orange zest and oak spice quickly lead to hints of mulled wine and espresso. There’s a nuttiness that comes across (with the rest of the palate in mind) as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I know, I know… Balancing out that nuttiness is a touch of salted caramel. The finish is clean overall, with faint hints of salted nuts, herbs and toffee.
Wow! As good as the 20-year expression was, this one gives a richer, more balanced presentation of the Speyside whisky. Recommended! 9/10
Thanks to Diageo for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.