When I first started drinking whisky—not counting the lost tweener years of my youth—I was enamored of the distinctiveness that peat imparted to whisky; so much so, that I jumped quickly from lightly-peated whiskies to heavily peated ones, savoring the fulness of flavor. I was like an adrenaline junkie needing an ever-greater thrill or, given the sedentary nature of ferret-farming, maybe like a chocoholic moving from milk chocolate to 54% cacoa to 65% cacoa to 72% cacoa to 85% cacoa…at any rate, my dopamine levels were dropping unless I upped the peaty-ness of my dram. And almost as if they were catering to me (rather than the exponentially-growing voraciously-drinking clan of single-malt scotch drinkers) various distilleries began upping the peat parts-per-million in their bottles, and a peat arms race with mutually-assured taste bud destruction was launched. I was an early casualty: At some point, for me, there is such a thing as “too much peat.” I never would have guessed it possible in advance, but there you have it: I’d crashed into a peat wall and peat-bonked. My internal compass pointed to a new direction, and while I still appreciated my old favorites, glorious new pastures of flavor-profiles opened and I again was a pilgrim anew.
And then into my life came the Diageo Special Release: Port Ellen 35 yo. The nose of the Diageo Special Release: Port Ellen 35 yo opens with a peat lollipop given out at a new peat dispensary too close to an elementary school. In the schoolyard, the middle-schoolers have woven a hammock from maple- and eucalyptus-leaves, and Charles Laughton and his Venerable Nose is lounging in it, singing a sea shanty about the elm prow of a longboat that’s only been used in freshwater ponds and lakes, crewed not so much by tars, but rather by bamboo scrimshaws. (If you know what I mean.) The never-brined not tarry sailors are eating fresh oatcakes, telling of a trip to India (improbably via only freshwater routes) in which they saw elephants snorting from their omphaloi, blowing in tribute to tablets of Hammurabi’s Code, baked just short of red-hot, upon which eggs and bubble & squeak are cooking: You can almost taste the Justice. Cuneiform next Tuesday?
The mouth is drying, yet a drop of it would open a mussel’s shell. Before we were able to ground him again in reality, John ranted about a “graphene teabag filled with the Essence of Pam Grier, circa 1974, with all the strut of her older self.” You okay, John? There was also a beeswax and lacquer varnish layered over the ballroom floor of Drummuir Castle, trapping the peat, only to be released by my frenetic flamenco dancing in my desperate flash-audition to get a recurring role in season two of Transparent. Although he mocks my aspirations, I dance while CinderStephen cleans out the fireplaces of the Castle—before they have cooled! In one of them, we found the charred remnants of Nemo—
—The fictitious Captain or the fictitious Clownfish? quoth John, dryly.
—Duh! We were “Finding Nemo”! replieth I, wetly.
There’s a high PineSol note, like a soprano’s part in Thomas Tallis’ masterpiece Spem in Alium, and really, also an aromatherapeutic pine salve; a veritable pine filibuster shattering any illusion of bipartisanship in the bicameral mind. Katia (my tonsils) and Maurice (my uvula) Krafft, the pioneering volcanologists, taking selfies while measuring the heat of the lava flow. The mouth is so distinctive that we were able to say with 100% confidence not only the precise GPS coordinates that the peat was cut from, but even the day of the week, the color of the sky, and that it was cut by old Monkey Shoulder Harold MacTavish with a meatcleaver…a kind of Clue-neiform Game out on the heaths, if you will.
The finish goes on and on like a Wagnerian opera (without the horns or screeching). It’s Peatzilla! It’s a five year Peat Bailout! It’s a nut I can’t crack, cracked Stephen. That’s what she said, said John. It’s so packed with flavor and just the right amount of fire. It’s making us ebullient, leading Stephen to call it an “ebullizer.” John helpfully noted that was a neoterism, and while the were occupied with patting each other on the back, I stole the rest of the sample, and left the Malt Cave to write this review. I found it to be uncomplicated but not not-deep. That is to say, it’s very specific—almost insular—and through the haze of its insistence on smoke, wood, lacquer, jewel boxes, and Hunter S. Thompson, there comes the staggering realization that…that…that the sample bottle is empty! AAAAAUUUUUGGGGGHHHHHHH!
–Our thanks to Diageo for the sample!