Whisky Advocate

Review: Port Askaig Islay single malt scotch

May 4th, 2009

Here’s a new line of Islay single malts from Specialty Drinks, an extension of The Whisky Exchange. (The bottle doesn’t tell you which distillery this whisky came from, but if you look at a map of Islay you can probably figure it out.) There’s also a cask strength expression, with no age statement. For some reason, they didn’t send me a sample of that one (fearing I wouldn’t like it?). I assume it’s a younger version.

Port Askaig, 17 year old, 45.8%, £50
I like this expression better than the more expensive 25 year old. There’s impeccable balance and more vibrancy in this 17 year old, with seaweed, smoked Spanish olive, coal soot, pencil shavings, citrus and anise, along with subtle kipper and picked ginger. All this is layered on a bed of oily, honeyed malt. Salty, peppery, sooty, tarry finish. Nicely done!

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 91

Port Askaig, 25 year old, 45.8%, £75
Still in the same vein as its 17 year old sibling reviewed above. But it’s softer, mellower, with  more wood impact (especially on the nose and back end of the palate) and tea leaves. Perhaps even some mild tobacco. Darker sugars too in this one (molasses?) rather than honey. And more berried fruit along with the citrus, which struggles more to reveal itself. Dry, resinous finish. An enjoyable dram, even if the wood outstays its welcome. But if you have to pick between the two expressions, go for the 17 year old and pocket the change with a smile on your face.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 85

16 Responses to “Review: Port Askaig Islay single malt scotch”

  1. Dr. Whisky says:

    Good to see some notes on these eagerly anticipated whiskies from the ever reliable Whisky Exchange. Thanks, John!

    Super cool packaging, too: a fusion of existing islay distillery bottling aesthetics.

    Elements of Islay were also pretty cool, I thought.

  2. No…not a Caol Ila! What is it about that tarry coal soot that beckons so invitingly? I told my wife I was finished buying whiskies for a while. Must…resist…temptation…

    Jeff

  3. John Hansell says:

    Dr. Whisky: Yes, the 17 year old is clean and beautifully balanced. You’re right about packaging. Very cool!

    Jeff H.: if you like Caol Ila, you will really like the 17 y/o.

  4. John Hansell says:

    I just included a link to The Whisky Exchange’s website in the first line of my posting to get more info on the whiskies an also a view of bottle shots.

  5. bgulien says:

    I am eagerly awaiting my CS and the 17 yo.
    It’s in the mail and hopefully tomorrow it will be in my hands.
    Guesses are rampant on the net, with Caol Ila the frontrunner.
    Not a bad choice, I think.
    I will let you know what the CS is like.

  6. butephoto says:

    I agree – the 17yo is superb whilst the 25yo is a bit too harsh and bitter. A bit too long in the cask for me.

  7. John Hansell says:

    Butephoto, yes the 17 is the sweet spot. Nicely done. I like the higher strength too!

  8. Tim D says:

    Caol Ila is one of my favorite distilleries… How does the Askaig 17 compare to something like, say, a Caol Ila 18? I actually prefer the 12 to the 18 for more “vibrancy” and a richer palate/nose… But there’s a 16 Signatory/non-chill filtered Caol Ila that’s in my short list of all time faves…. So, given that – am I gonna love a 17 Askaig?

    • John Hansell says:

      Tim D., I agree with you about the distillery bottled 12 y/o vs. the 18 y/o. I like the 12 y/o better for the reason you state. I think that the Askaig 17 y/o is better than the distillery’s 18 y/o and I fully recommend you pick up a bottle.

  9. bgulien says:

    Today the 17 yo and the CS arrived. Had to taste the CS.
    Everybody already had a go at the 17.
    I must admit I had no clean palate. Just had a nice rum before tasting.

    Colour: Pale straw. Nice long and even legs.

    Nose: Laphroaig immediately sprang to mind. Peat and a bit medicinal, brine, wet carton, ash, then some notes of sweetness like treacle. Very smoky.
    Leave it 10 minutes and you have a perfect air freshener in your room. Pity I can’t take it with me in the car!
    Altogether very pleasant.

    Palate: Smoky and peppery, hot and sharp alcohol. oily and feeling full in the mouth. With a few drops of water, it’s immediately more civilized.
    Straw and barley. The peat stays. licorice root.

    Finish: Medium long. Nice aftertaste, not to dry. The smoke is still present.

    Conclusion: Very drinkable, even without water. With a few drops, it instantly changes it’s character to a more subtle dram. Not bad for a young one!
    Neat, is my preferred way for this whisky. Nice and strong.
    On a blind tasting though, I wouldn’t be sure: young Laphroaig or Caol Ila?
    Anyway, it’s another sure hit for Sukhinder. Will buy again when finished.
    Now for the 17….

  10. […] Malt Advocate, John Hansell reviews the 17 and 25 year old Port Askaig, bottled and sold by Whisky Exchange. From […]

  11. […] Malt Advocate Blog (What does John know?) – John Hansell provides notes and ratings for both the 17 and 25 year expressions.  He really likes the 17 year. […]

  12. […] Malt Advocate Blog – John Hansell also prefers the 17 year (91 pts) to the 25 (85 pts). His review is the one that compelled me to purchase my bottle of the 17 year. […]

  13. […] Whisky tries the Port Askaig 17 and 25.  Like just about everyone, he prefers the 17 to the […]

  14. Rob says:

    Interesting that the 17 year would be described by John as mellower and woody, yet more of a dark sweetness of molasses rather than lighter sugar. I would expect the opposite. Would love to try this one.

  15. MJ Klein says:

    i bought a bottle of the CS in Kaohsiung Taiwan. i found it too mediciney with the burnt charcoal flavor coming on way too strong.

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