Port Ellen 13th Release Review

Port Ellen 13th Release042

55% abv

Score:  93/100


2013’s official Port Ellen release.  I’m not sure what this one retailed for when it hit the open market, and quite frankly not really interested in hunting that information down, to be honest.  The reality is that it’s now long gone and well beyond what I’m willing to pay for a bottle anyway.

Having said that, a friend of mine who has a warm heart for sharing, a passion for great whisky and really good taste was kind enough to pour this for me just days back.  This and several others which we’ll cover in the coming days actually.  As you can imagine I was diligently taking notes, as were most others in our little collective.

I’ve been questioned about the value of these high end malt reviews before, as in theory they really only pertain to a very small and extremely specific audience.  I spent quite a while mulling over that line of thought before ultimately dismissing it.  I think, because there are very few individuals that will actually get their hands on whiskies like this, that it’s absolutely important to share details.  Otherwise there’s a very small data set regarding these malts that exists in the wider whisky world.  The more information, the better, aye?

Anyway…this is one of the oldest PEs I’ve tried, having spun ’round the sun 34 times since its 1978 birth.  And age is definitely a huge factor in the end product’s character.  Earlier Diageo Port Ellens boasted much more heft, prickling vibrancy and bigger smoke.  This is an exercise in austerity.  Not sure which I prefer, to be honest, but I can tell you this one is a classic beauty.  Islay with age is magic.

Limited run of just 2,958 (highly coveted) bottles.

Nose:  So soft.  Everything is fading and settling into mature austerity by this age.  Nice toasted notes.  Smoke, but not big billows.  Vanilla.  Soft lemon.  Fruit cocktail in syrup.  Mild milk and white chocolate.  Nice warm farmy, barnyard aromas.  Peat and briny, seaside notes.  A slight sourness of fruits.

Palate:  Lemony and very oily.  Much smokier here than the nose belies (and we like that).  Green tea and a general herbaceousness.  Tastes very mature.  Quite soft, all told, for 55% Islay malt.  Hay.  Fruit candy sweetness.  Soft white fruits.

Thoughts:  Gorgeous.  Rich, big and elegant.  Port Ellen in all its inherent singularity and complexity (if that makes any sense).

*Sincere thanks to the anonymous gent who kindly poured this, and several other, Port Ellen for me at a recent gathering.  Unforgettable.  Slainte.


 – Images & Words:  Curt

1 thought on “Port Ellen 13th Release Review

  1. Jeff

    I think there’s certainly value in these reviews in terms of what distillery has achieved what and when (especially in transition), even when there’s limited practical relevance for the general population. No doubt it’s a big beautiful whisky – I can’t really enjoy it vicariously through others, but I don’t begrudge anyone the experience, particularly as such experiences are likely to become fewer and farther between as time (and the market) moves on. The writing and photography are, as always, first rate, which is what drew me to this site in the first place. Any similarities here in structure (not palate) with Auchentoshan Valinch (another great CS whisky I’d buy again, if someone would part with an age statement)? Not that Valinch is anything like 34 yrs., but some points in your description reminded me of it, and of some Springbank. Sláinte!

    P.S.: Just a question to throw out to the wide and sundry: what is your favourite time/season/environment for whisky? My prime time is probably between 2 and 4 in the afternoon of a cold, snowed-in day (peat or sherry, CS preferred) and in Indian Summer, outdoors, just after sunset, sharing a dram with the Scotch Guru (peat over sherry, Irish seriously considered). Just curious about any and all responses.


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