Here we are again back on the pearl of the Hebrides. Today we will go to the eastern part opposite the island of Jura: Port Askaig.
The appointment is made on the spot, we have to meet up with an old acquaintance: Chris M. dit "My Lord" (the most Scottish of Londoners we had already met in a previous adventure!).
Port Askaig is what we call literally and figuratively, a real fishing port. It is the gateway to the island by sea, but it is above all a village that is deserved when you reach it by bike by land. When you see the descent to get there, you say to yourself: "I hope I don't come here for nothing"! But I reassure you that it will not be the case today!
In the meantime, My Lord, we will eat at the Port Askaig Hotel. Enjoying a beautiful Scottish day, we then land in front of the establishment with a glass of Caol Ila in what must be one of the most beautiful spots on the island. I'll make it short: sunshine, the calm of the Sound of Islay, a glass of whisky and opposite the two Jura mountains. What more could you ask for?
This moment of calm was only disturbed by the arrival of the Misneach, a small blue fishing boat. Our surprise is great when we see our kilt lord at the front of the boat (like a figurehead of the most beautiful effect!).
Leaving the tranquility of our table, we join the dock to meet him. Chris invites us to come aboard and tells us that the tasting will take place in the middle of the Sound of Islay to better appreciate the landscape of the east coast of the island of Islay and the Paps of Jura.
Once in the middle of the pass, we will be able to start tasting our two Port Askaig, one day in front of the village.
In order not to get too confused in our mouths we will start with the 8 years old and finish with the 100° Proof (stronger in alcohol).
Like any good bottle of Port Askaig, both vials are dark. They mask a pale gold-coloured liquid linked to a young age and an American oak barrel finish (Elixir distillers also offers much older versions of 16, 19, 30 and even 45 years old -NDLR).
Smiling in a light roll, Chris grabbed the 8-year-old.
In order to optimize the aromas, he pours it into the famous Elixir Distillers 1920's Professional glasses.
No need to approach the nose too close for it to be invaded by a great lemon freshness, but also by the sweetness of the peat smoke. From the first nose everything is fresh and soft. We immediately feel that we are well east of Islay and that we will have a good time!
While we take a breath of fresh air, we have to plunge our noses back into the glass to discover iodized aromas (in complete harmony with the place and the boat on which we are standing).
Ah! Feel a glass of Port Askaig off the island of Islay and the Port in question....
Nevertheless, the mystery of the origin of this single malt without distillery remains intact. We take this opportunity to ask our host the question. He tells us to take advantage of the moment and that he will tell us about it later.
It's time for the tasting! The glasses are hitting each other! Complaint!
It too is up to our expectations. The sweetness and unctuousness of a real peated whisky is there. A note of fresh fruit and freshly cut herbs invades our mouth but quickly it is covered by smoky aromas and the sweet sensation of peat. You feel a certain bitterness (perhaps lemony) when you keep it in your mouth a little longer.
This bitterness dissipates when the liquid is swallowed and a soft sensation of sweetness remains in the mouth for a long time. The sweet aroma is transformed into honey and the smoke remains in the throat for a while.
As the rolling current of the Sound of Islay makes us stand at the boat's railings, Chris serves us the second glass.
The second whisky is also very light golden even very pale. But make no mistake about it, the "natural color" style often masks their play and when you plunge your nose into the glass, it is to take full advantage of powerful aromas.
Of course the first strength of the aroma comes from the degree of the liquid, 57.1 ° (which when reduced to an American unit of measurement is measured at 100 ° proof -NDLR-).
Nevertheless, when the nose gets used to this power, it discovers a beautiful peaty aroma mixed with marine notes of seaweed. A fresh aroma that is found when you come out of the glass and take a breath of fresh air on the deck. Returning to the glass, the aroma that emerges is sweeter and more fruity.
In the mouth, this second Port Askaig is more vegetal than the 8-year-old. Of course, its shape coming out of the barrel makes it more powerful than the previous one, but you get used to it quite quickly and the creamy, thick taste of the peat has its effect. Keeping it in the mouth reveals sweet notes of honey and plums. By keeping the liquid in the mouth (57.1°!), we discover notes of citrus fruits and even pepper (but perhaps more pleasant than in the 8 years old).
After this influx of experience in the mouth, it is the peaty notes that remain, as if we had swallowed a big puff of smoke.
We then turned to Chris to discuss a choice to make and thank him for this experience. Personally I would say that with the 8 years old we discover a beautiful approach to the island of Islay but with the 100° proof we settle there permanently. I will lean more towards the 100 ° proof because of the younger and a little more bitter note of the 8-year-old.
However, one question continued to bother us: "but who distills it? "The aromas look like a nearby Caol Ila but it's not that. So once again we asked our host the question to find out the answer.
He looks at us and says "in fact it's the distillery..." but at that moment taking advantage of a whirlwind he brilliantly jumps overboard and swims towards the port shouting "I'm late I'll tell you next time ! ».
The production of Port Askaig will definitely remain a mystery! If anyone knows......