My first Port Askaig - what a way to begin, I pity the bottle from them to follow this. It’s a £60 miracle and worth every penny. I’ve never really understood Port Askaig as a brand, it’s other people’s whisky in a bottle done up to look like a distillery brand, what’s the point of that, it’s always felt like a strange proposition. But here I am saying how bloody good this stuff is. It’s a funny old world.
So, this is the 10 year old anniversary bottling and as far as I can fathom it’s Caol Ila in 15% ex-solera Sherry butts, 25% first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels and 60% refill American oak hogsheads and rumour persists that we have have had Laphroig or Lagavulin in them to boot. I don’t know if this last bit is true but it’s like a marriage made in heaven.
On the nose this is a buttery thing, sweet, burnt sugar, pastries, a little Kendal mint cake, red over ripe apples, hot sawn wood, sweet lemon oils, a whiff of butterscotch. There’s smoke too, not overpowering, gentle and clean. Toasted coconut?! Ooh, this is lovely. Sherry and bourbon and sweet things and smoke.
In the mouth it’s safe to say I was expecting something more brutal at nearly 60%, but this is alarmingly drinkable, in fact stupendously drinkable for the abv. On a blind taste I’d have said no higher than 46/48% it’s so smooth and integrated.
On arrival the sweetness from the sherry and bourbon just fly in together like a sugar coated fist. And that is quickly followed with wonderful sweet peat, lemon oil, toffee, bananas, there’s wood but it’s not drying, it’s just a lovely woody note, just right. It finishes with toffee, ash, peat and bourbon wood.
It’s staggering how the finish is so warming and controlled. No alcohol burn, a beautiful wood note, peat fading out, whiffs of grapefruit and sweetness and ash and some tasty salted Zout licorice too. What a winner.
So, my first Port Askaig, it’s a great example of what smart people can do with good whisky and great barrels. I’ll be damned if we‘re ever finding out exactly what the ingredients were but it’s no worse for not knowing. Maybe it’s even better for it.
For some final context, this was a clear winner in a whisky tasting (about 30 of us) up against Bunnahabhain Stiùireadair, Bowmore 18 Deep & Complex, Kilchoman Port Cask Matured 2018 release, Laphroaig 10yo #011 Bottling - strong competition.