This 24 days/24 posts thing has turned into a bit of a boozy diary, and this entry isn’t going to change that – I don’t normally write about things that are that related to work on here, but this was too good an opportunity to miss. Today I popped in to town to see how a friend of mine was doing – he was running a barrel top tasting at Selfridges.
The whisky he was pouring is the latest release from a range of whiskies that I’ve helped with in the past. A whisky that is the beginning of a new era – Port Askaig 100 Proof.
The friend in question is Oliver Chilton, product development guy for both The Whisky Exchange and Speciality Drinks, my employers and our sister company, the bottlers of Elements of Islay, Single Malts of Scotland and Port Askaig ranges, amongst others. I’ve helped out with the development of previous entries in the Port Askaig range, but this most recent release was dropped on me as a surprise. I probably tried it before launch – on one of the occasions when Ollie handed me an anonymous glass, asked for an opinion, nodded knowingly and then wandered off, smirking – but I didn’t know anything about it when it appeared in the office.
The Port Askaig series are a range of Scottish single malt whiskies from Islay. There’s no mention of the distillery, but the location of the village of Port Askaig just along the coast from Caol Ila has led to theories being bandied around the internet for years. However, Ollie has recently revealed that at least three distilleries are currently represented in the range, so things are much murkier than we’ve thought in the past – as Ollie has told me on a number of occasions, Islay is small enough that all of the distilleries are in the same post code district as Port Askaig, so all bets are off.
Before Port Askaig 100 Proof, all of the whiskies have been small batch vattings – somewhere between a handful and tens of casks. This means that they eventually sell out, and a new batch, with a different flavour profile and probably a different age statement, needs to be created. That’s fine for a small whisky brand, but if you want to get out into the big wide world, then you need to have a bottling that’s going to last for a long while – that’s where 100 Proof comes in.
Rather than a small batch, it’s an ongoing bottling. Speciality Drinks have arranged for a supply of whisky created to a Port Askaig 100 Proof spec to continue for a while. That’s a big thing – with Islay whisky at a peak of popularity, it takes some doing to get a supply contract, but they’ve managed to sort it. So, rather than having to invent a new bottling every few months, there’s now a core, ongoing dram that people will be able find more than once. Which is a good thing.
So, what’s it like?
Nose: Rich, with meaty smoke – freshly cooked ham and burning logs. Behind that is some coastal character – sea spray and stony rock pools – and a bit of sweetness.
Palate: Sharp and mineral heavy to start, but it gets sweeter very quickly – milky coffee, milk chocolate and cinnamon fireball gobstoppers. The spice grows, and picks up some liquorice on the way, as well as stewed apple with cinnamon and a bittersweet charcoal smokiness.
Finish: Sweet spicy and quite long. There’s some youthful sharpness – cooking apple peelings – and lingering cinnamon spiced chocolate.
In short, it’s good. A classic, smoky, Islay dram, with a nice mix of fruit, ash and coastal character. It’s got a good kick from the high strength and can take a drop of water nicely. It’s also reasonably priced and is appearing in shops around Europe already – I arrived at Maltstock in September with one of the first bottles we’d got at The Whisky Exchange, assuming that noone would have heard of it, let alone taste it, only to have one of my Dutch friends show me the bottle he’d brought along to share. For those of us here in the UK, it’s popping up at specialist and more mainstream retailers, including, to justify the writing of this post, Selfridges on Oxford Street.
Still, buy it from The Whisky Exchange. We are best.
Port Askaig 100 Proof
Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky, 57.1%. ~£45.