The bottle of Port Askaig Islay whisky that you see up above is the brainchild of Specialty Drinks Ltd., the parent company of The Whiskey Exchange and Elixir Distillers. As the name suggests, this new to the US market independent bottling label will only release whiskies distilled and matured on Islay. As a lover of the peaty dram, this excites me to no end, but after perusing their website, there were a couple of things that I was curious about, i.e. the number of barrels used in each “limited batch”, the number of Islay distillers that they have access to for future releases, and a few other things. I reached out to the good people at Specialty Drinks Ltd. for some answers and will hopefully share them with you in an upcoming post. In the meantime, if you’re as curious about this brand as I am, head on over to the EXCELLENT One Nation Under Whisky podcast which is hosted by our dear friends Jason and Joshua of The Jewish Whisky Company and give a listen to their interview with Ollie Chilton of Elixir Distillers (this episode really should have been called “Independent Bottlers in Cars Talking Whisky”).
Now that you know a wee bit about the Port Askaig brand, let’s move on to our review of their 8 year old expression. Here’s what the good people at Impex Beverages have to say about this whisky:
The core expression from Port Askaig made in a beautifully sweet, smoky style. Its elegant, approachable character makes it the perfect introduction to Islay single malts. Sourced from just north of the village of Port Askaig, the whisky is aged in refill American oak casks. This allows the character of the spirit to shine through, making for a gentle, smoky, moreish dram. Yielding an eight year natural color and being non-chill filtered, this award-winning small-batch production expression daily drinker was created by Islay whisky fans for Islay whisky drinkers.
And here’s what we thought about it…
- Appearance: Very light, straw and/or pale golden color.
- ABV: 45.8%
- Limpd: Heavy on the medicinal notes (antiseptic and Band-Aids) with a lot of menthol, a little caramel and hints of cured meat and leather.
- G-LO: I’m digging the smell on this one. I’m getting charcoal briquette, vanilla, menthol, black jellybeans, anise, black pepper, and a touch of brine.
- Limpd: Fairly viscous with a bit of sweetness followed quickly by a peppery heat. The flavors move to the menthol as the ashen flavors kick in (almost like holding a briquette in your mouth; but, like in a good way). The finish is long and brings out some of the smoked meats (brisket?) and pipe tobacco.
- G-LO: Well that was unexpected. I think this mope just got rope-a-doped! Based on the nose, I was expecting low key and mildly Islay-ee, but instead, I got body slammed with a big dose of black pepper, charcoal, and licorice. Some sugary sweetness in the middle, but that peaty, peppery punch just won’t let go. Everything comes together in the end with heat, smoke, herbs, and a touch of sweet licorice that lasts for quite awhile. A bit of saltiness and lingering peppery licorice hangs on in the aftertaste.
Limpd: The nose on this one had me a bit frightened. I thought this might have been a one-note, peated dare. To my pleasant surprise, the Port Askaig had some good balance and wide range of flavors. I still think the peaty finish is a bit too much (I generally prefer a softer flavor profile), but this was by no means too over-the-top with peat. I liked it at 8 years. I suspect I would love it with a little more time in the barrel.
G-LO: It’s well documented that I really like whisky that messes with my noggin. This is one of those whiskies. It’s got lots of youthful intensity and there’s no doubt where it comes from (i.e. Islay). This was a youngish and delicious whisky with a bit of an edge to it. If this is what they can do with an 8 year old whisky, then I’m REALLY curious to try their older expressions.