whiskysample.nlN: This one immediately transports me to a fresh, moist, autumnal morning in Ashdown forest. Although peaty, its never in danger of swamping the damp and wet green fern laden forest elements of the spirit or cask. Theres a floral note now, honeysuckle meets Pyracantha whilst the peat is opening to reveal the dirty oily floor of an engine room, indicative of this great distillery. As this dram opens up, the floral and peat notes become sweeter, thicker and dirtier - oozing sap and blossom as a further dose of warm peat drying and steaming in the sun wafts in and out like its being fanned by a stiff but sporadic breeze. That peat is complex, in fact its so integrated and integral to the malt itself, its hard to know whats what. The peat and spirit are one, but hows it working with the cask? At 63.1% you’d never know it. On the nose at least its ethanol soft but flavour wise its vibrant. The flavours lean towards soft and floral and whilst the cask seems tame. Its co-opererative influence is over the flavour rather than intensity and the result is interesting to say the least. Theres a curious mix of additional flavours including a light gardeners herbicide, veg stock and some dubious kitchen cooking alchemy - brie in a Passata sauce [a cooking no-no let me tell you], and roast lamb with mint sauce too.[This whisky evolved so much during this tasting im starting a second session of nosing notes].
Time passes…… Everything has settled down now and its much more ubiquitous. Buttery, peaty, [Castrol] oily malt, the fresh, [citrus] green elements are sweeter and the wood/peat/spirit interplay seems more balanced and integrated. Again, the peat wafts through, its not constant and so you get moments of a salty coastal breeze and mechanics overalls at sporadic and random moments. Its a great nose, what a journey.
T: Boy, theres the 63.1%, needs water. This baby is so clean, intense and focused in flavour with fine ground pepper, fresh nettle green malt, salt, slightly charred old oily smoky oak reflecting the peats diminishing potency over the years. Despite its 28years its spirit led. As it opens up, theres much more of an intense thick, sweeter, peaty, peppery mouthful. It gets really hot this. Im resorting to water in the mouth pre sip making some mouthfuls a 50/50 split. This therefore dropped some mouthfuls to approximately 30% abv and its still utterly intense in body. i can’t say its overly complex or giving in flavour however. Ultimately its a harsh spirit led whisky from an almost inactive cask.
F: The thick, sweet/fresh malt lingers, a touch of buttery & oily brine with aniseed and nettles becoming more and more salty and peppery [especially without water] until the Prestige - this ones a disappearing act! With a faint salty, smoked peaty saline finish, but almost nothing after 30 seconds.
C: I’d never guess this was a 28yo or initially a Port Ellen. A blind tasting would probably have me stumped. I guess id have gone to Campbeltown first but as this opened up it became more PE like. By Port Ellen’s standards its not the best but certainly a good whisky with a stella nose. Thankyou Aby.
On a side note - comparing this with a recent modern Ardbeg 10 [Oct ’14], these two belong to a completely different world of complexity.
Scores a B