Port Ellen

Review: Ardbeg An Oa Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Ardbeg+An+Oa+1.jpg
ABV
46.6%
Aging
PX Sherry, Charred New Oak, and Ex-Bourbon
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Ardbeg (Port Ellen, Scotland)

This Ardbeg has a bit of a focus on French oak, and introduced as part of Arbeg’s core range in 2017. As is the growing trend these days, it has some charred new oak in it and was married in a French oak vat to bring together the varying flavours created from the sweet, dried fruit character of the PX cask, the creamy corn influence from the ex-bourbon cask, and the oaky, sweet character of the new oak.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L70562 13/07/2018 18007341 11:42

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is so rich – cacao, deep smoke, charred lemon peel, fresh lemon peel, rich earth, ground unroasted almonds, baking spices, iodine, turf fires, and biscuits. A touch of brilliant minerality, dried brown rice, dried apricot, prune, plum jam, and sharp smoke. A fascinating nose, and very Ardbeg. The youth is a bit present on the nose, but it’s a good youth.

The palate has an incredible dried smoky character to it, like charred chickpea or nut skins. Further, rockpools, white pepper, and coconut oil. And some sweet oak, ketchup (indeed), and a finish full of a smoked sea character (smoky seaweed, smoked fish, etc.). The finish is dry, oaky (French oak, quite so), ashy, and slightly marine. Minerality comes out on the finish more than other places.

A very nice whisky. How does it compare to the 10? This is a bit younger (more oily, a bit more raw) – smokier but not as fruity or balanced, or, indeed, as intriguing. But a bit bigger, and perhaps richer – but less mature. So, it depends what you are after. I like both quite a bit, but prefer the 10, which has the best of this – but more elegantly integrated and balanced. All that to say – this is still fantastic, and it’s a welcome addition to the range for me.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. A very nice peated whisky, but at a price. On a value scale, it’s better to go for the 10, which I find a tad better, and is a bit cheaper. Nonetheless, this is a decent buy if you like smoky, peated whiskies.


Review: Ardbeg Perpetuum Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Ardbeg Perpetuum 2.jpg
ABV
47.4%
Aging
Bourbon and Sherry Casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Ardbeg (Port Ellen, Scotland)

This is the Ardbeg limited edition 200th anniversary bottling, blended to commemorate Ardbeg's "past, present, and future" - but there isn't much information beyond whatever that means.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 200th Anniversary

  • Bottling Code: L61542 19/02/2015 15001508 08:25

  • Bottling Date: 2015

A sharp, ashy nose – rockpools, lemon, sharp smoke, peat bog, vanilla, custard, cayenne pepper, dark chocolate, iodine, eucalyptus, and almost a bit buttery at this proof with the young oiliness of the distillate coming through. The spice on the nose is intriguing. The palate is quite light, and full of blackened chickpeas, wet earth, smoke, ash, vanilla, and a bit more cayenne. Raisins and dried apricot are barely present, but there. The smoke is light on the sweet start, and it slowly starts to grow until the finish, where it continues. The finish is light and yet tannic and a bit tangy, with roasted root vegetables, rockpools, and smoke. Very enjoyable, and yet still lacking what I long for in Ardbeg.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. This comes are a pretty high price.


Review: Port Ellen 37 Year Old 1979 Single Malt Scotch Whisky (2017 Special Release) by Jason Hambrey

Thanks to Diageo for the picture.

Thanks to Diageo for the picture.

ABV
51.0%
Aging
Refill American Oak hogsheads and butts; 37 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Port Ellen (Port Ellen, Scotland)

Port Ellen, here we have another mothballed distillery soon to be resurrected. This special release was composed of a vatting of 8 casks, resulting in 2,988 bottles. Let's see what the old Islay will reveal...


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 2017 Special Releases, 1979

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Gorgeous colour in the glass. But you forget about the colour once you get to the nose – wow! Blueberries, smoke, mixed herbs, moss, straw, dried fish, rubber, and lots of sea minerality. There’s more – grapefruit, sesame, virgin olive oil, cacao nibs, leather...more? might as well - Wet heather (plants, not flowers), blueberry bushes, vanilla, alphonso mango, black pepper, oak, brown rice, dry bacon, rockpools, apricots, light butterscotch, guanabana, himalayan pink salt...

The palate is smoky, rubbery, and yet still sweet with a load of vegetal peat szechuan pepper, and thyme – lots of thyme. Lavender, candle wax, brown sugar, chutney – rubbery on the end. Perfectly balanced between the load of flavors present, the sweet vanilla, and the peat. Creamy, tropical fruit character is still here, too.  Quite remarkable. Brightens on the finish with pickled lemons, heater, clove, oak, szechuan peppers, crispy bacon, malty beer, black olives, and a good dose of smoke. And a bit more thyme...

One of the best whiskies which I’ve ever tasted.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Low. You don’t buy a $4000 whisky for value.


Review: Laphroaig Cairdeas 200th Anniversary Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Laphroaig Cairdeas 200.jpg
ABV
51.5%
Aging
11 yrs
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Laphroaig (Port Ellen, Scotland)

This whisky was produced in master distiller's John Campbell's interpretation of what would have been produced years ago at Laphroaig - made using the small stills at laphroaig, and matured in the oldest warehouse (no. 1, right by the sea), with 100% of the malt in this whisky being floor malted at laphroaig.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 200th Anniversary

  • Bottling Code: L5 11375A 90:03

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Rich, full force laphroaig – but extra creamy this time. Black olives, peat bog, iodine, caramel, incense, lime leaf,  and loads of vegetal peat notes. Oddly, it’s reminding me of walking through the produce section of a chinese grocery store, though I’m not sure what vegetable it is that I’m smelling. Yet, the oak is well at play, providing a terrific backbone of woody notes – you can tell the casks were terrific that went into this, not just the distillate. The mouthfeel is terrific, and quite spicy in fact – with some brilliant cedar notes, milk chocolate, burning leaves, light butterscotch, and a rich, full finish with dark chocolate, smoke, wet earth, black olive, and roasted lemons. Intriguing, complex, with terrific feel and movement. A remarkable dram.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $100 - this is just awesome stuff.


Review: Ledaig 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46.3%
Aging
10 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Tobermory (Tobermory, Scotland)

Ledaig whiskies are the brand of peated whiskies produced by Tobermory - a full 50% of Tobermory's production goes towards Ledaig. It was first introduced in 1996, and it is made from malt peated to 35-40 ppm at Port Ellen maltings. Ledaig translates to "Safe Haven".


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Huge smoky nose, with some green cardamom and anise seed mixed in. BBQ chips. This malt is known for being a bit farmyard-y – indeed it is! A good bit of mineral character to it as well. Great peat. Slightly dry, and rich as well. A light sweetness comes through as well – a terrific, smoky malt nose. And some maritime characteristics as well. Seashells. Quite savory.

The palate is rich, with lots of sharp, mineral peat and underlying sweetness. Terrific. Layers of smoke, charred/smoky BBQ aromas, soot, vanilla, green fennel, and a touch of caraway.

Earthy peat on the finish, still with a fair bit of herbal and herbal spice (i.e. fennel seed, celery seed) type flavours. Very nice, and a big, bold finish. I like it a lot more than the unpeated Tobermory.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High at $68. But not high value if you don’t like peat!


Review: Laphroaig 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
10 yrs; Ex-bourbon barrels
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Laphroaig (Port Ellen, Scotland)

Laphroaig is known for their big, peaty drams which are on the most intense and extreme side of Scotch whisky. If you like big, peaty, and medicinal drams, almost everything they release is both terrific and relatively affordable. This is the "original" Laphroaig, as it has been produced the same way for over 75 years.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L133957C 10:36

  • Bottling Date: 2013

What peat this is! Rock pools, celery, menthol, apples, prunes (roasted), pear, smoke, and maybe a touch of lime peel - the menthol makes things interesting in that mix! The smoke is simply awesome: what sharpness and intensity of peat, yet held back - the character and quality of the peat in this, and the balance - incredible. I wish they would bottle this one at 48%. The cask strength version perhaps meets this need…but an in between wouldn’t be bad.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, based on $86.


Review: Ardbeg Corryvreckan Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

This is the biggest of Ardbeg's regular releases, coming in at a hefty 57.1%, un chill-filtered and uncoloured. The price is hefty too, but so goes price/demand with Ardbeg. The whisky, itself, is named after the third largest whirlpool in the world, Corryvreckan, off the coast of the Island of Jura. The batches of this can be very up and down, and it has been described to me as an Ardbeg connoisseur as "terrible or awesome". I love giving this one to guests who have just been introduced to peat - I have certainly picked up quite a few fans.

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Review: Ardbeg Uigeadail Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

This bottling is a classic of the Ardbeg range, indeed, quite a classic in whisky as a whole. Originally, it combined old Ardbeg sherry-casked whisky with young, muscular and smoky Ardbeg – a classic use of different ages to balance a whisky and create complexity well (and, a worthwhile use of a no-age-statement whisky!). However, the age of the sherry casks, many suspect, has dropped since the initial releases. Batches also vary – the best are among the best you can buy, and the worst make you really wish you didn’t blow all the money to get a bottle (though I haven’t had a terrible batch, but a few I would definitely not pay for, if not all of them – is any whisky worth the $180 you pay in Ontario for this? Whisky, as fabulous as it is…is just whisky, and there is much to be had at a lower clip than this one). Also, Uigeadails are pretty terrible for batch variation...it could be brilliant, or blah...

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Review: Ardbeg Islay Single Malt Scotch 10 Years Old by Jason Hambrey

Ardbeg is a distillery on Islay, the region of Scotland renowned for its peaty whiskies. They are also (somewhat notoriously) known for many limited edition bottlings which are highly sought after and has brought the distillery to cult status. Ardbeg was one of the first distilleries to use No-Age-Statment (NAS) bottlings as part of their core lineup (Ardbeg Corryvreckan and Uigeadail), even charging more for these whiskies than for this 10 year old. (However – I must add – despite much of the correctly placed critique against NAS whiskies, Corryvreckan and Uigeadail are very nice whiskies, if not overpriced). Part of the reason they utilized a no-age-statement is because the smokiness from peat dies down with age, so an older expression of the same whisky will be less smoky.

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