Monday, June 3, 2019

Review - Johnnie Walker Blue Label 'Ghost & Rare' Port Ellen Edition

The Port Ellen Edition is the latest expression in the Ghost & Rare series from the popular blended Scotch whisky brand of Johnnie Walker. All sit under the super premium Blue Label umbrella and the whiskies included are all either rare and old, or from closed distilleries that are mothballed, demolished or no longer in operation. The Port Ellen Edition, which was released in late 2018, is a blend of eight such whiskies.

It naturally features prominently the Islay distillery of Port Ellen, hence the name, which closed in 1983 and also two whiskies from other closed (or 'ghost') distilleries - the single grains of Caledonian and Carsebridge. Five old malts are also included from the distilleries of Blair Athol, Cragganmore, Dailuaine, Mortlach and Oban. The whiskies were selected by Jim Beveridge, the Master Blender for the Johnnie Walker range.

"I'm always fascinated by how whiskies from a small number of iconic closed distilleries have a unique inimitable character that lend something to Johnnie Walker Blue Label and we are continually exploring these flavours to craft new experiences in Scotch."
Jim Beveridge - Johnnie Walker Master Blender. 

The Johnnie Walker Blue Label 'Ghost & Rare' Port Ellen Edition is bottled at 43% ABV and is available worldwide from selected whisky specialists and premium retailers. The recommended retail price is £275.

Our tasting notes
The colour is deep gold and the nose has immediate aromas of vanilla and cinder toffee, along with some stewed green apple and milk chocolate. There is also a robust malty aroma, alongside some soft background peat smoke and a hint of earthy spices. Candied lemon round things off.

On the palate this whisky has a wonderful mouthfeel that has a slightly waxy and oily quality to it. There are initial notes of robust malted barley and whispy peat smoke - this has more influence than on the nose and also a hint of vegetal bitterness. This is counterbalanced by much sweeter notes of golden syrup and vanilla, with a hint of manuka honey. Underneath is a distinct fruitiness - the stewed apple and bittersweet candied lemon from the nose, plus something more tropical (think of pineapple and dried mango). There is also a hint of plum and sultana. Dusty wood spices join late, especially cinnamon, as does a pinch of cocoa powder.

The finish is long with the sweetness initially to the fore. As this begins to fade, especially the golden syrup and tropical fruit elements, then it is the robust malt and soft peat smoke that take over. This, along with the incresingly influential earthy spices, give warmth and dryness.

What's the verdict?
This expression of the Johnnie Walker Blue Label has a wonderful depth and complexity. It is full of flavour and very classy, presenting a multi-layered set of aromas and flavours. Much of this comes from the old whiskies from the closed distilleries that the Ghost & Rare blends are trying to showcase. This does not disappoint. The rarity of Port Ellen single malt means that it has to be used sparingly these days. It has been used to great effect here.

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