Visiting with some friends this weekend up in Pasadena and a friend of mine was gracious enough to expose me to a few of the amazing bottles he has in his collection. Thanks so much Tim. He opened his cabinet up and offered me anything I wanted to try. First thing my eyes locked onto was an independent bottling of Port Ellen. This was the bottle in question. ( Chieftan’s 1982 Port Ellen 25 Year ) This dram represented a few important milestones for me. First ever closed distillery as well as the oldest whisky I have ever tasted. The first thing I noticed was that rather than a face full of peat, here was an elegant floral and complex peat. Ripe peaches and custard. Lemony biscuits and some wood smoke. Very balanced and beautiful. I will only give some general impressions as I tend to need a session or two with a whiskey to get to know it enough to write a full review. Maybe some day.
Little did I know the next whisky I would try would push the envelope even further. I saw a Signatory cask-strength series bottle and was intrigued. The label said it was a Rare Ayrshire. Not a distillery that I had heard many references to but I was sure it would be interesting. Before I describe this further I must mention that the next day when I got home I did some more research and realized that this was also from a closed distillery, the elusive Ladyburn. This was a 37 year old bottling that was distilled in 1974. Such fantastic stuff, I really wish it wasn’t, for so many reasons. Delicious aromas of apples, star fruit and other more elusive fruit swirling with toffee, vanilla and gentle malty sweetness. This was fantastically drinkable with no burn whatsoever even though it was cask-strength and while it was lighter and sweeter it was oozing with complexity. They must really have had an amazing cask for this stuff. 37 years in oak and the wood influence was so minimal. As if the spirit and the wood had merged completely and the result was pure harmony. Such an enticing malt. One smell of this and you could be transfixed. This is a bottle that I will dream about. I really hope I get to sample this one again. Then we moved on to a peat bruiser. I just has to try the peatiest whisky on the planet, Bruichladdich’s Octomore 6.1. As a peat-head I felt compelled. It smelled like freshly ground asphalt with a raging forest fire chasing you. As advertised there was no denying this had a lot of peat. This nose right after the Ladyburn was rather shocking. This might be over the edge of peatiness if it tasted the same as it smelled. Thankfully while there were hot coals of peat in the taste they were artfully blended with softer fruiter elements and a nice complex maltiness. I did enjoy it but am not sure that I will be running out to grab some. Especially in its price range there are many other great whiskies I will be looking to try.
Thanks again to our gracious hosts who opened their home to my family and allowed our two-year-old to run amuck in your beautiful house. Don’t forget to come down to San Diego soon so we can return the favor.