This one is probably one of Port Ellen’s most mythical bottles. Bottled by Gordon & MacPhail, it was destined for the Italians from Meregalli, in the Celtic Label collection which had for instance seen a Caol Ila from the same period come out. A relatively young Port Ellen from the 60s, at nearly 65% which was exactly what dreams are made of. But in the manner of some bottles, isn’t this version’s reputation a little overrated? Not at all !!!
Nose: Alcohol is here, and we begin on a dry peat which bounces on dried grass and hay. It comes with royal jelly and a massive supply of citrus fruits (orange, pink grapefruit). We then drift to white bread and thyme notes, with exotic fruits (mango, papaya). We travel through herbaceous lands, a savanna which attire itself in fruits. A quite Dantesque entrance.
Then there is some crème fraîche mixed with oily, and salty note, alongside hints of heady flowers. The nose opens more clearly on a salty hydrocarbon layer. Almond milk, roasted malt and royal jelly stand out with the opening. There is also a freshness (sage, herbs) and green notes (liquorice). It is fine and of a rare elegance always astride between an austere green aspect and greasy yet vivid peat oils.
Water is reinforcing its greasy characteristic and soften its greenery. Here we set off again on passion fruit, roasted pineapple, guava and citrus fruits that awaken at once. The fruitiness is exquisite but not exuberant. We stay subtle every step of the way despite a real underlying power. This rounder balance adds sweetness but also brings out other aspects. The nose then unveils some donuts, dashes of lavender and peony all while conserving an unlikely amalgam between citrus fruits and icy mint.
We also have some porridge but it keeps changing. Even after a good hour it doesn’t stabilize, perpetually spinning. We then discover some red currant jelly and farm hints, Sichuan pepper. The last variation is on apricot pie with whipped cream, always with salt but now with some slate.
A properly staggering nose, with a tempered character and a sprawling development. A big slap to begin with. Boom.
Mouth: We have an abundance of peat notes. We go from turpentine to this oleaginous salty substance perceived on the nose. We also have some sea spray with a structure of incredible power, both petrochemical and iodic, kneaded on a vegetal background. The citrus fruits didn’t go away (lemon, candied orange) while smoked papaya arrives. We have a texture which enrich itself of a subtle honey touch. It is a bit vivid as is, even if we cannot say that it is really burning.
With water, the texture becomes silkier, with a smoke dragging on liquorice, increased salt notes. A sweet sourness (candied lemon, grapefruit) stands out with mocha and a beautiful honey consistency. The second part of the mouth reinforces liquorice whereas we get a slightly asphalted butter, thyme, passion fruit, iodine but also a mineral hint, exotic fruits tartlet (light sourness) and butter-rounded rubber.
The mouth is whole and deserves a water addition to calm this dram’s ardor. We then go from a battle between a sustained chemistry around citrus fruits to a multicolored mix of flavors. It is really astonishing how an immediate and wild pleasure is replaced by a slow but striking diffusion.
Finish : It will just never end, with dried fish, pineapple and grapefruit notes before a trip back to light ashes and those famous marine petroleum notes. Water adds complexity with honey, pineapple, light smoke and slightly biscuited malt. Bitter orange then turns up on the aftertaste, with thyme and smoked papaya.