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Now firstly let me make clear that I do not claim to be a whisky expert. I am a whisky drinker who has little understanding of the production process, the history of the distilleries or the status of the various vintages. It's the same with wine and cars - I definitely belong at the driving end! Not that I'm suggesting anyone should try to travel on a bottle of whisky or wine, except as a passenger. In fact, I'm a fervent anti-drink/driver and have been known to ruin the end of a party by threatening to call the police on someone who insisted on driving home the worse for wear. But I digress ... I am a simple consumer. I have tasted many whisky's and whiskey's and I know what I like. Many of my favourites are single malts, including Laphroaig and Glenmorangie. My friends and family know my weaknesses, and I'm forever grateful to my brother for buying me a bottle of what has become my firm favourite. The label describes it as Hart Brothers Finest Collection, 14 year old single malt from the Port Ellen Distillery. The strength is 43% by volume, and it was distilled in 1983. After reading sidneygee's review of the Bowmore Cask Strength, I felt I couldn't match his in-depth knowledge of the subject and almost decided not to write an op on my favourite tipple. Then I thought, what the heck, most people just know whether they like the stuff or not, so I'll give it a go. DooYoo's introduction to the Port Ellen site was my first lesson in Whisky history - I had no idea the distillery no longer operated. But I gather this 'rare vintage bottling' of mine must have been bottled two years after the 12-year-old stuff, in 1997. The label also says it's 43%, as opposed to the 57.8 in the DooYoo introduction. I've been treasuring it since my first taste, at my 40th birthday party. In it's clear bottle, you can see what a crystal clear pale liquid it is. It looks clean and fresh.
Pulling out the cork, my anticipation grew. The light fresh frangrance promised much and I was surprised to find it contained only a slight hint of that heady peaty smell associated with Islay's. I poured a measure and rolled it around the glass - this was not a trick I'd leaned from experts, it's just that it was late in the evening and I wasn't standing too steadily anyway. I sipped it - it was as smooth as nectar, holding the flavours in the back of my throat as it slipped down easily. So, it's my favourite tipple, but even my keeping it for special occasions it is now almost finished. But why has the strength changed? Can anyone throw some more light on this wonderful stuff, and where I can find more? If it's so rare, can an expert out there suggest a comparable drink?
Port Ellen ceased production in 1983. There are still many merchant bottlings available, but they are beginning to become less frequent. Cadenhead released this 12-year-old from the last year of operation at the distillery (1983-95, 57.8 vol.).