Port Ellen and Brora are two names that would immediately make a whisky lover's ears perk up. The two distilleries have been closed for decades, and with remaining stock of their whiskies running low, they are among the rarest and most sought after Scotch whiskies in the world.
While single malts from Port Ellen and Brora are highly sought after (and incredibly expensive), there is a way that one can get a taste of these two distilleries - through the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost And Rare range.
Crafted using "irreplaceable ‘ghost’ whiskies" and other incredibly rare whiskies from the Johnnie Walker Blue Label reserves, the first expression - Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Brora - was launched last year.
Johnnie Walker recently hosted an intimate private tasting of the second edition - Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Port Ellen at Whisky Cove, Pavilion Hotel KL, where members of the media, selected guests, and members of whisky community Dram Full Malaysia got to taste the limited edition whisky.
But before we get into what the whisky tastes like, here is a lowdown on Port Ellen and why exactly it is so highly sought after.
Located in the town of Port Ellen on the isle of Islay, the distillery has had a chequered past. Established as a malt mill in 1825 then turned into a distillery in 1833, closed in 1930 before being rebuilt in 1966.
Unfortunately, it was the victim of a downturn in the Scotch whisky industry in the 1980s, and it, along with many other iconic whisky distilleries (including Brora), were mothballed.
Today, old Port Ellen whisky is highly priced not just because of its scarcity, but also because it is regarded as one of the finest smoky Islay whiskies ever produced. But this may not be the end of the story of Port Ellen. The global conglomerate that owns the brand, Diageo, has plans to reopen Port Ellen in 2020, though only time will tell whether the whiskies from this new distillery can live up to its past glory.
In the meantime, however, old Port Ellen single malt bottlings are rare, highly sought after, and usually go for extremely high prices. However, you can still get a taste of what the old Port Ellen tastes like through the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Port Ellen (43.8% ABV).
Now, it's important to note that while the Ghost And Rare is a non-age statement blended whisky, and comprises a blend of whiskies that are at least 20 years old. The youngest Port Ellen whisky in the blend is at least 34 years old.
On the nose, I could get a nice, pleasantly smoky note, which reminded me of some Port Ellen single malts I've tried in the past. That smooth smokiness comes through on the initial palate as well, before a mouth-coating honey, tropical fruit-like sweetness kicks in, tempered by a hint of spiciness, before ending with a lingering sweet smoky finish.
The flagship Johnnie Walker Blue Label is already an impressive blend, but the Ghost And Rare Port Ellen manages to kick it up a notch with that added smoky sweetness on the nose and palate. It really drives home just what an impressive and memorable malt the Port Ellen really is, even in a blend.
Here's hoping that the new Port Ellen will be every bit as good as what it used to be.
For more information on the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost And Rare Port Ellen or to purchase the whisky, visit www.staythirsty.com.my.