So. One question. Why the f*ck did this distillery close?
I concede that all of the Port Ellen expressions that I have tasted to date have been in their mid 20s to early 30s, so age is certainly a factor. We all know (or should all know) that aged peat is sexy. There is simply no getting around it. When the smoke, brine and tar begin to resound with lessoning echoes, the fruits that previously were hidden behind the peat curtain begin to sashay towards center stage for their moment in the spotlight. This moment, between the ebb of the peat and the crescendo of the oak, is a small window of time. At this point the malt needs to retire to the comforts of glass to arrest the maturation process.
And here, at this point of maturity, is where we now find the diminishing stores of Port Ellen. Every sip is one less that exists in the world. When Port Ellen closed its doors in ’83, we were left with a cache of casks that one day certainly must run dry. Speculation runs rampant on how much PE is left in the world (nowhere moreso than here on ATW), but to put it simply…this whisky is going the way of the dodo.
Mr. PE (aka Maltmonster) has said that this 8th release, while still exceptional, is not necessarily the personification of the distillery’s profile. I’ve tasted a dozen or so Port Ellen’s now, of varying casks, ages and finishes, and while I cannot speak with the assurance he does, I can say that no one would know better.
Having said that…
Let’s go full circle to my first question. Why would Port Ellen be closed? This whisky is brilliant stuff. I have heard that even in its younger incarnations it deserved more than the relegation to blending fodder it was known to be. This was another Islay distillery that produced a high quality whisky and certainly had the financial backing it needed to get through the whisky slump of the 80s. Its closure will forever haunt us.
Port Ellen 8. The nose is subtle and sophisticated. Fading smoke and peat…mild lemon…light honeydew melon and freshly cut potato. Hints of wax and latex and tar. Licorice and mint. A dusting of cocoa powder. All of this seems slightly restrained, even at cask strength.
The palate is woody and smoky. Age is everywhere here, but not of something past its prime. More akin to starting the descent after summiting. It is oily and lingering (beautifully so), and bitters out slightly in oaky shards.
Typical of the distillery style? Maybe not quite, but brilliant, brilliant Islay whisky nevertheless.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt