After a fab week in Campbeltown [WLP] for the Malts Festival in May 2022 [yep, still on catchup], I find myself on the ferry to Islay for its music & malt festival, Feis Ile. A band are using the journey across the water as a rehearsal opportunity.
I’d missed Lagavulin the day before in favour of staying longer in Campbeltown for Watt Day [WLP]. Meanwhile, this year’s hotly anticipated Bruichladdich Day was a ticketed event that sold out online months beforehand. I didn’t get a ticket so have nothing more to say about that.
Successfully parked up on Port Ellen beach, I got on my bike heading east and soon found Portintruan, or at least the site entrance of where the proposed new distillery is to be built. Here I found Distillery Manager Georgie Crawford [Lagavulin/Diageo tSB] welcoming whisky enthusiasts wishing to see Portintruan in the earliest stages of its development via a virtual tour. Georgie tells me this is the biggest and certainly the most sophisticated project the island has ever seen.
In May 2022, thespiritsbusiness.com wrote:
Pronounced Port-nah-truan, the distillery takes its name from the historic farm estate where the distillery is located and means ‘place of the stream’.
Co-owner Sukhinder Singh explained the vision for the distillery: “Elixir Distillers has always taken a flavour-led approach and this will be the Portintruan philosophy as well. We will be utilising a number of old-style production techniques which we believe will accentuate the depth and character of the spirit.
The original drafts had to change to fit in with the aesthetic demands of the three existing southern distilleries of Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg. Current plans are thereabouts complete, the proposals stunning.
As well as its own floor maltings and some on-site [underground] warehousing, Portintruan hopes to have its own experimental facility which will produce not only whisky but rum too, “with around 11 distilling combinations” – retorts and all.
The distillery is set to include housing for staff, a visitor’s centre, a bar & restaurant, and an educational centre for various training activities. Furthermore, it’s hoped there will be a separate drinking ‘bothy’ looking out towards Ireland. It’s unlikely, however, that the distillery itself will be seen from the sea. Completion of the distillery is a few years away with an anticipated starting date for distilling in early 2024.
Visitors to the site were generously offered a quartet of whisky miniatures to take home, consisting of a Port Askaig 08yo and a trio of [NAS] blended malts under the revisioned Elements of Islay range. Don’t mind if I do.
Elements of Islay Bourbon Cask  Ob. 54.5% WB87.40
- N: Caol Ila = Laphroaig-esque with a firm vegetal medicinal blanket and iodine sponge.
- T: Boy is this full-on thick/viscose spirit, salty and decidedly sour.
- F: Becomes somewhat bitter to citrus sour with [more] bourbon-steeped action before the saltiness returns. Drying.
- C: Full-on intensely delivered malt.
Scores 86 points
Elements of Islay Sherry Cask  Ob./Elixir 54.5% WB86.96
Strangely, almost no legs at all. Perhaps I should have a lie-down!
- N: New plimsolls,… that’s sherry alright! As an antidote to the decidedly bourbon-centric savoury number, we’ve some of the usual sherry-seasoned suspects as well as sweet sashimi & nori seaweed, and cucumber toffee.
- T: Now burnt cucumber toffee juice, breadcrumbs & pepper-encrusted ham, we head into a mature murky middle [in a good way],…
- F: ,… towards muddy bubblegum, Polyfilla?!
- C: Great! Let’s try the blend of the two.
Scores 85 points
Elements of Islay Cask Edit  Ob./Elixir 46% WB84.79
- N: Made of ‘refill bourbon and sherry casks‘, it smells as you’d imagine after trying the two constituent parts with a Caol Ila meets Clynelish-type vibe one passing observation. Estery beer notes come through with time.
- T: Strong/weighty arrival, malty waxy courgette toffee, a particular phenol character, bitter ash,.. murky, some cinnamon.
- F: Remains [vegetal-toffeed/carbo-sweet] murky yet distillate-faithful with consistent cask tickles.
- C: A whisky that captures the spirit of many a single malt.
Scores 85 points
Port Askaig 08yo  Ob./Elixir 45.8% [5cl] [WB]82.92
- N: Starting with vanilla ice cream, this starts out as a sweeter Islay affair before developments towards sticky allium-savoury sour < Tzatziki-creamy peaty nettle tea.
- T: Fresh oaky yet spirit faithful all the way through. Also, salty and [spinach-y] vegetal with a peppery touch and a vinegary sharpness.
- F: Iodine, vegetal > vanilla, a little cucumber/gherkin,… charcoal.
- C: Spirit & Islay-faithful, this is an excellent 08yo. At under £40 for a [full] bottle at an abv of 45.8%, this appears to be an excellent goto BFYB.
Scores 86 points
With thanks to the Elixir team who continue their mindful focus on quality for the drinker with generosity at the heart.
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