That this is one of the best five spirits I have ever drunk. In the history of ever. Accordingly, I hereby request that, upon my death, my soul be conveyed to the harbor in Port Ellen so that it might be anointed with this brilliant, brilliant whisky. (“Stephen, where’s Janice from legal? I want this to be binding!”).
For me the greatest whiskies have a certain note. Whatever precisely the note is, the note of a great whisky has a clarity, persistence, and confidence that simply cuts through the nonsense, misfortune, sorrow, and petty grievances of ordinary life to deliver you to place of transcendent beauty and grace. In the Port Ellen 34 that note is perfectly resplendent, offering spine-tingling, hair-raising chills, like the chime produced by tapping the Hope Diamond with the Gachala Emerald. Though it goes unregistered by my merely mortal ears, it subtly recalibrates the harmony of the spheres. It might be better, then, to compare it to the cascading notes of Louis Armstrong that open 1928’s recording of “West End Blues.” Here is a stunning shower of sounds so modern and forward-looking they redefine the possibilities of music. Gabriel’s trumpet never sounded this good. It is the sound of angels poured from a pitcher into magical pool of everlasting life. Yes, that is the note that this expression of Port Ellen achieves, which is to say that it is a note that contains a multitude of notes, their interconnection, and entire horizons of possibility for new notes and new interconnections.
–On the scale of —
[Bill: “Psst. John! Maybe a few words about the nose and mouth?”]
[Stephen: “Yeah, or like anything, really.”]
Okay, the nose is a dark pomegranate syrup, crushed in a walnut mortar with a crystal pestle, then reduced over low, low heat in a compounding pharmacy run by Wiccans. Orange rinds used to make a football in toddler prison. The nose is perfectly Parthenonic with a Goldie Locks-approved levels of peat (not too much, not too little, but just right). The peat gathers itself up into a beautiful crescendo. Think of peat compressed by the earth to the point that it turns into a jeweled anise seed, and is subsequently worshiped by druids. As the mouth unfolds we have a non-creamy stout pulled with three swift jerks from a firkin: a dry, substantial, iron and flint pour. Though there’s more peat now, it doesn’t dominate; the balance here is so exceptional it could resolve the crisis in Crimea, the tensions in the Middle East, and win a 93% approval for Obamacare all before being seated at the restaurant table. And yet still the mouth unfolds! A brilliant note of liquefied sapphires and sprayed with diamond gas served in Heaven’s juice bar. The chains have fallen away, and you stand on your feet and turn to see see the peat fire behind you, and all of the other whiskies you drank were just shadows on the cave of your palate. The finish reverberates so long that you wish the word “reverberate” had more syllables. “Reverberverberverberverberate.” Yes, that’s more like it. The finish compresses the whole nature of the world and its story into jewel-like, countlessly faceted concision. Imagine that you commissioned Terrence Malick to direct and film the moment your life passes before your eyes. Farro pancakes, smoked apples in a cast iron pan, a gorp for a volcanologist exploring calderas. Candied orange slices cut to look like wings on a smoked salmon. The kind of sweets you’d find in the Halloween bag of a child in a Park Avenue hotel after you scared her with your Wookiee costume. This is truly spectacular and unique. It rinses the soul of sins with more expedience than a sacrament.
The Port Ellen 34 Year 2013 Limited Edition is fellow trumpeter, Max Kaminsky, saying: “I felt as if I had stared into the sun’s eye.”–He wasn’t alone, and you won’t be, either. You’ll be one with the universe.
–Our thanks to Hunter PR and Diageo for the sample!