Port Ellen is arguably my favorite distillery. Sorta hard to explain why, and have it make any sense if you’ve never tasted the whisky, but lemme try anyway…
I’ve had better malts from dozens of other distilleries. I’ve drank some Port Ellen that was rather mediocre. I’ve also tasted Port Ellens that were borderline bad. So how is it then that I can even suggest it may be the distillery nearest and dearest to my shriveled l’il black heart? Quite simply because there is a certain allure, mystique and untouchable magic in the whiskies from this closed Islay distillery. Most of you who’ve been around for a while will be thinking ‘wait…I thought Ardbeg (or maybe even Amrut) was your favorite.’ While those two certainly hold pride of place for operational distilleries, there’s just something intangible and inexplicably shiver-inducing about sipping drams from the lost currents of time.
It’s been more than 30 years now since spirit flowed from the stills at Port Ellen, but for those nostalgiacs (is that a word?) still suffering the pangs of heartache, there’s cold comfort in the fact that time stands still for any unopened bottles of Port Ellen floating around out there. If you can still score a bottle (or more)…do so. And don’t be shy about sharing the experience with friends when you finally pop the cork.
This Connoisseurs Choice release is a rather young PE, by current standards, at a mere 21 years of age. I’d almost guess younger even, to be honest. The dram itself is more than decent, however, sadly, 40% is not the way to serve this up. That’s like playing Slayer at elevator music volume. Port Ellen needs to be amped up to allow all of the delicate intricacies of the spirit to show through.
Nose: Grassy and herbal, but the citrus bites first. A nice sweet / sour balancing act. Mild peat and smoke, but wood smoke (not quite as bold as a mesquite or hickory, but very pronounced nevertheless). Hay bales meet dunnage warehouse. Quite a zippy fruit mix. Pomegranate…and maybe orange. Soft vanilla.
Palate: Waxy. Again…grassy and herbal. Thin burnt notes. Smoked fruit skins. More peat and smoke than the nose lets on. That smokiness hangs around a bit and dries out nicely. Much less sweetness than the nose as well. Palate doesn’t quite deliver what the nose hints at. Thin in terms of flavor, mouth feel and staying power. Still a good drink, but…to cop a cliché…’woefully underpowered’.
– Reviewed by: Curt
– Photo: Curt