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Friday, 26 April 2013

What's In A Name: Port Askaig 12 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

The music business is littered with acts which have changed their name at some stage, to avoid confusion with other, likeminded creatives. Be it a simple hyphen added (in the case of UK indie band Long-View), a location specific addendum (in the case of The London Suede) or a total surname change (take a stand Cheryl Cole), the act you see on stage on hear on record will be the same talented* artist as they were before.

Because as consumers, we’re easily confused. Or so the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) would have you believe. Recently they changed their labelling regulations to make sure that each and every bottle of whisky you buy is clearly identifiable as to where it was made. Sort of.

For years now, bottlers have been buying single malts (or blending whiskies) and selling them under names akin to mythical distilleries; the sort of bottle you’d see on the shelf of your local supermarket maybe, with a watercolour of an anonymous country estate in the background.

It was deemed by the SWA that this could be confusing to consumers who might think they’re getting a single malt from an actual, real life distillery (which they are, if it says ‘single malt’ on the label) but when trying to visit Glen Narnia, might find that the place name on the label of their favourite bottle doesn’t really exist.

Anyway, one of the excellent independent bottles who chose to adjust its name to come in to line with the recent change in regulations, is Port Askaig (or Port Askaig Harbour as it became known). Thankfully back to its original moniker, the name was chosen to mirror a rough estimation of where the liquid in these releases apparently comes from (I’ll save you looking it up: Caol Ila), taking it's name after Islay's lesser known, much more northerly, port. However, with a cryptic, non-distillery specific name, it by no means ties this bottler down to only using liquid from that one distillery.

Proudly Islay-poduced, Port Askaig has a short but excellent history of previous releases (I’m still rueing not picking up a bottle of the very first batch of 17 years old which they release: pure nectar). In fact, I recently purchased a bottle of their now-gone 25 year old as a gift for a friend, such is my faith in the product.

Thus my excitement was tickled when, late last year a 12 year old version was added to the ranks at the decidedly perfect strength of 45.8%. Now where have we seen that ABV before...?

Port Askaig Harbour – 12 Years Old – Islay Single Malt – 45.8% abv – 70cl - £43.95 here

Nose: Vanilla and peat smoke give a bracing, coastal quality to this warming yet invigorating aroma. Elements of coal dust and dried seaweed give way to wet soil and heavy petrichor notes.

Palate: A good balance of salty sea spray, peat smoke and milk chocolate. This sits well and with a drop of water opens up the lighter vanilla and citrus tones to become a very easy drinking Islay malt (not in a low PPM way- this still packs a punch).

Finish: Chamois leather, grapefruit pith and peat smoke.

Overall: A very drinkable Islay malt. As other peaty whiskies move towards no age statements at this price point, if you want something that does carry an age and also packs a peaty punch, this could be for you. Much more Radiohead than On A Friday.

*hummm... debatable.