Tuesday 17 November 2020

Tasted #500: Port Ellen 40yo 1979 "Prima & Ultima"

When I started this blog over 8 years ago, I didn't really know where it would lead, but it's fair to say I didn't expect that after all this time it would still be running with regular updates, spanning two countries and with two writers. I also didn't expect we'd ever see a 500th tasting post either, and yet here we are!

Over the years I've tried to keep the "100s" posts for special drams. #200 was a 60yo Glenfarclas#300 was a 65yo Macallan#400 was a 50yo OB Balvenie...and for this 500th post, I was fortunate enough to try a 40 Year Old Port Ellen from Diageo's recent "Prima & Ultima" range, which in some ways seems to have picked up the mantle from the Special Releases (themselves becoming a bit more accessible - no bad thing, mind you). 


You don't say no to a Port Ellen, and whilst they're not all deserving of the hype, this one bottled from a single refill European Oak Butt, and matured for 40 years from 1979-2019, certainly filled me with a lot of hope. Thankfully, my hope was justified.

Port Ellen 40yo 1979 "Prima & Ultima" (51.2% ABV, 40yo, OB, 1979-2019, Cask #6422, Islay)


Colour: Rich deep amber gold.

Nose: Lemons at first, then a grassy herbaceousness. A hint of mint? Subtle salty smoke, leading to seaweed and finally hints of an old cigar box.

Palate: The smoke comes through stronger on the palate - BBQ smoke, followed by orange wheels and an explosion of meatiness. Quite different to the much more subdued nose, this was chewy, viscous and "big". Dried fruits, chocolate, smoked seaweed all feature too.

Finish: Long, with sea salted peanuts, followed by charcuterie and a residual longing BBQ smoke at the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. What an experience.

A humungous thanks to Kam of Dram Good Stuff for the taste of this. Whilst they don't currently have this bottle listed, they do have another OB 1979 40yo Port Ellen available if this one has whetted your appetite!


Friday 13 November 2020

Macallan Edition No.6 Hong Kong Launch [Tasted #499]

The Macallan "Edition" series has become a pretty monumental one for the whisky collecting community. What started 6 years ago with a ~$700HKD release (which some instantly dismissed as just another NAS) has gone onto become a highly sought-after series, with Edition No.1 now fetching almost $13,000HKD at auction (more importantly though, it was a good whisky).

The events hosted by Edrington HK have been equally monumental too, in particular the Edition No.2 launch dinner at VEAEdition No.3 launch party with Roja Dove & Edition No.4 lunch to celebrate the new distillery (my luck ran out with Edition No.5 - I was out of town).

..and then just a few weeks ago, the party came to an end, with the launch of Edition No.6.

Celebrating the River Spey, which runs through the distillery estate and serves as the water source for all Macallan whisky, Edition No.6 was launched in HK at a series of lunches and dinners held at K11 Musea. Hosted by the ever-knowledgable Patricia Byott (Brand Ambassador for The Macallan HK and Macau), the aquatic-themed room saw diners at appropriately socially-distanced tables enjoy a 4 course meal paired with, for a change, three cocktails (all made with Edition No.6), followed by a neat serving of Edition No.6. 

With dishes including Scallop, Sea Bass and Crab, there was a clear theme to the event, which was further emphasised when the neat drams of Edition No.6 were handed out, and the curtains opened to reveal a fishing set up on the "banks" of Victoria Harbour.


As per tradition, The Macallan give a little more detail on the box for Edition No.6 than most of their core range, so we know that this release is comprised of a number of cask styles including:
  • American Oak Tevasa butts
  • Euopean Oak JMM hogsheads
  • European Oak Tevasa butts and hogsheads
  • European and American Oak refill butts; and
  • American Oak Vasyma butts
(Butts make up 74% of the whisky, hogsheads the other 26%)

Bottled at 48.6% ABV, the whisky retails for $1,103HKD and is available now. Whilst the exact outturn isn't known, with 393 casks in the vatting, this release seems to be a bit smaller than the previous releases, with the exception of Edition No.1 and perhaps No.2. If you're thinking of grabbing one, probably best to do so sooner rather than later.


The Macallan Edition No.6 (48.6% ABV, NAS, Speyside, $1,103HKD)


Colour: Caramel gold.

Nose: Ginger, orange, notes of oak, raisins and dark chocolate. So far, so good!

Palate: Rich creamy caramel, then spicy orange zest and vanilla cream. Toffee and cinnamon, then a bit more ginger.

Finish: Long, and "robustly sherried" - cigar box, earth-imbued oak.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Happily, a fantastic end to the series - on par with #1, which was probably my favourite of the series (though now they've all been released, I would like to do a side-by-side comparison of all of them!)


Monday 9 November 2020

Tasted #498: Port Askaig 2001 Specially Bottled for Whiskies & More

One of the benefits, I imagine, of being an importer/distributor of some of the world's best-loved Independent Bottlings is that when you want to release a special bottling to celebrate an anniversary or similar, you have a few friends you can call on.

That's been particularly evident with HK-based Whiskies & More (Timeless & Tasty) who represent brands such as Asta Morris, Port Askaig, WM Cadenhead, Hidden Spirits, Elements of Islay, Single Malts of Scotland, A.D. Rattray and Blackadder, and over the years have released special bottlings specifically for their anniversaries and HK whisky events (like this Glenlossie 10yo bottled for HK Whisky Festival).

With their 4th Anniversary just past, a special bottling was called for, and that call was answered in the form of this beautiful Port Askaig 2001, bottled after 17 years in a sherry butt at a respectable 53.4% ABV.

Many readers will probably know that a lot of Port Askaig (a brand under Elixir Distillers, part of The Whisky Exchange family) is actually Caol Ila...but not always. This represents the "other" side of Port Askaig..and I believe to be from the same distillery as the 45 Year Old (hint: like this release, their whisky is often unpeated. Further hint: Check the labels on this post...).

Whiskies & More were kind enough to send through a sample recently...and let's face it - you don't say no to a single cask 17yo Islay whisky fully matured in a sherry butt, right?

Port Askaig 2001 Specially Bottled for Whiskies & More (53.4% ABV, 17yo, Islay, $1,880HKD)


Colour: Deep copper orange.

Nose: Clean, sweet candied walnuts, glacé cherries, rasins and some leather. With a few drops of water, a but more nutty, a bit more perfumed.

Palate: Sweet, viscous and intense. Hints of mango and peach, then a nuttiness (almonds, walnuts), and slight hints of spice.

Finish: Long, very creamy with some sweet fruity spice lingering right to the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. Delicious.


Tuesday 3 November 2020

Highland Park Cask Strength - Hong Kong launch [Tasted #495 - 497]

It's been a "long time between drinks" when it comes to whisky events in HK (for obvious reasons, of course). With the COVID caseloads being relatively low for the past month or so however, it's been nice to see a new style of launch event able to emerge - smaller gatherings with appropriate social distancing. Wasting no time in this space was Edrington HK, who recently launched the new Highland Park Cask Strength with a series of small tastings held in a suite at Rosewood Hong Kong, overlooking Victoria Harbour.

Building on the success of the Single Cask series (of which there have been a few for Hong Kong), the new Cask Strength sees the whisky bottled without any dilution, and is set to be a part of the core lineup, albeit in various batches - this being Release 1.

Whisky maker Gordon Motion (whom we met back in August last year in Taipei) created the whisky from "predominantly sherry seasoned American oak casks of different ages" and judging by not just my notes, but those of others in the room, some of those casks must have had a reasonable amount of age. Highland Park are deliberately inviting whisky drinkers to "choose their strength" with this release, and with 63.3% ABV on tap, there's plenty of room for experimentation.

Our tasting was accompanied by some perfectly-matched canapés, along with the 12yo and 21yo for good measure...but really it was the Cask Strength everyone was most keen to try.

Highland Park Cask Strength Release 1 (63.3% ABV, NAS, Orkney, $625HKD, £54.75) 


Colour: Vibrant yellow gold.

Nose: Sweet at first (although as our ever-helpful host Ron Taylor taught us, you can't actually "smell" sweet) - boiled lollies, desiccated coconut, pears. No prickliness, despite the high ABV and what I'd wrongly assumed would be a relatively young age.

Palate: Big and mouth-coating as you'd expect - ginger, orange, then a slightly earthen smokiness emerges, but surprisingly approachable. "Big", but not "brash". I'd honestly have no hesitation giving this to a whisky newcomer! There's some toffee too. With a few drops of water, a meatiness appears, the smoke intensifies slightly, and there's citrus (orange) that becomes evident.

Finish: Follows the palate with incredible length.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. "Big", but not at all harsh - much more approachable, and much more mature than I'd expected. A very good dram, especially for $625HKD.

Highland Park 12 Year Old (40% ABV, 12yo, Orkney, $490HKD, £29.95) 


Colour: Yellow gold.

Nose: Floral spice, honey, wafts of earthy-smoke and candied ginger.

Palate: Vanilla, ginger spice, whole oranges and that same earthy smoke, but with floral hints.

Finish: Medium in length, with hints of caramel towards the end.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100. Still a solid dram, as it's always been over the years.

Highland Park 21 Year Old (2019 Edition) (46% ABV, 21yo, Orkney, $2,300HKD, £209.95) 


Colour: Orange-brown gold.

Nose: Paprika spice, gingerbread, sea-salted smoke.

Palate: Complex - sweet and savoury, with BBQ smoke, orange chocolate, salted caramel and dry rub.

Finish: Orange chocolate, coconut, medium to long in length.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Delightful.

I'll admit that going into the event, I expected the Cask Strength to be a little on the young, and possibly harsher side (especially given the 63.3% ABV), but it's not at all. Here's a rare cask strength whisky from a respected distillery which is available, good value, approachable, and delicious. That's a lot of boxes ticked in my opinion!

Highland Park Cask Strength is available now across UK and HK retailers.