Google Port Ellen, old 10 twice and new 40 once

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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

May 26, 2020


Port Ellen, old 10 twice and new 40 once
(With a nod to Feis Ile)

As they say, you now need a special occasion to have some Port Ellen, as they’re becoming increasingly rare. Having said that, the fact that there’s a new Port Ellen always makes for one of those special occasions; what’s more, it’s one of the oldest ever bottled. Now, to find an interesting sparring partner… Another 1979 would be the obvious choice, I agree, but I believe we could do better. How about, since the new 40 is also about being different from the usual ‘distillery character’, checking that very distillery character by first trying one or two very young Port Ellens?

Port Ellen 10 yo (58.4%, Signatory Vintage, Natural High Strength, 1994)

Port Ellen 10 yo (58.4%, Signatory Vintage, Natural High Strength, 1994) Five stars
A pretty rare bottle and, in theory, a 1983 since it was 10 when it was bottled, in 1994, while 1984s cannot exist. Are you following me? I’ve always enjoyed the super-young Port Ellens, most from Signatory (Scottish Wildlife, Corsini and such) or from Cadenhead. For they always showcase this rocket-fuel-based side that we like so much… Colour: pale white wine. Nose: fresh mown lawn, kerosene indeed, tincture of iodine, chalk and plaster, new tyres (how very PE indeed), charcoal and ashes, one green olive, asparagus shavings, coal tar, and the tiniest grapefruit in the creation. There’s this ‘obvious’ side to these young PEs, you feel like you could just write ‘of course’. With water: old coal bags (hessian), coal dust, almond cream, clams, green apples, damp wool, and just a touch of ripe apple. Something ripe in a young PE, how’s that possible? Mouth (neat): extremely punchy, acerbic and acidic, first with the greenest apples there ever was, then lemons and grey pepper, horseradish, tons of ashes, and, well, just the feeling of having eaten the ashtray after a very long night playing poker (maybe because you lost - whatever). Limoncello and old natural tar liqueur. Bang! With water: absolutely excellent, still a little brutal and demanding, on home-smoked salmon, more coal, more bits of tyre, more tire, and some very dry ashes. That ashtray, for example. Finish: very long, very dry and ashy. Lemons and a drop of orgeat syrup in the aftertaste, that’s a better civilised signature. Comments: huge smoke and a lot of tar in this very pure young Port Ellen. This should be the style they’re about to re-create at the ‘new’ Port Ellen Distillery. Can we wait?
SGP:368 - 92 points.

Wait, just to make sure we’re really having a good grasp of PE’s character…

Port Ellen 10 yo 1981/1992 (64%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 150th Anniversary, for Preiss Import California)

Port Ellen 10 yo 1981/1992 (64%, Cadenhead, Authentic Collection, 150th Anniversary, for Preiss Import California) Four stars
This is pretty rare too. Not all of those 1981s were perfect if I remember well, let’s make sure… Colour: white wine. Nose: it is, indeed, very different, more on sour fruits and vegetables, with some yoghurt it seems. I wrote ‘it seems’ because of the quasi-lethal strength in this case. I say let’s take steps… With water: fully on ink, coal smoke, fumes, new plastics (or new iPhone straight from the box – works with Samsung too, and maybe even with Huawei) and Provence herbs. Thyme, rosemary, yoghurt sauce (like they have with kebab in Turkey, it’s excellent)… Now there’s also some dirt, scoria, more plaster… The jury’s still out. Mouth (neat): God it’s hot! Something like bubblegum infused in a mix of varnish and cologne. Water is obligatory (they would close this website down if I was to go on). With water: a soapy side, some huge lemons too, smoked lemons should that exist, cigar ashes, some cardboard… Mixed feelings here. Finish: very long and very peppery. Bone-dry ashiness in the aftertaste. Comments: certainly not an easy fellow, it’s lacking the Signatory’s purity and supreme ‘blade-iness’, I would say.
SGP:268 - 86 points.

I think we’re ready for the new 40…

Port Ellen 40 yo 1979/2020 ‘9 Rogue Casks’ (50.9%, OB, Untold Stories, 1380 bottles)

Port Ellen 40 yo 1979/2020 ‘9 Rogue Casks’ (50.9%, OB, Untold Stories, 1380 bottles) Five stars
This brand new, very smartly packaged and self-restrained bottle of Port Ellen stems from four American oak hogsheads and five European oak butts that were deemed as ‘holding unusual flavour characteristics that stood out from the typical Port Ellen distillery character’. Said to be of a lighter, more delicate style of Port Ellen, let’s check that. Well it cannot be any less delicate than the last 10 anyway… Colour: gold. Nose: yeah well, same conclusion as last time we had a +/-40yo PE, they age just beautifully, gaining much elegance and, in this very case, a rather superb and subtle medicinal and piny side. Actually, fresh almonds are first up, so are very fresh walnuts and perhaps brazils, then camphory ointments, some vivid notes of bergamots (which I would die for), then a little natural rubber and tar - after all this is PE - and the subtlest very old pu-ehr tea around the tenth water. Yep. With water, precisely: indeed, it gets subtle, almost whispering, rather on old embrocations, old linseed oil at a painter’s, with an unexpected touch of preserved peach or apricot, almost as a wink. A little raw wool too, and something that I’ve found in quite a few old PEs if I remember well, Woolite! And citron zests. Mouth (neat): lighter? Were they meaning this is like if you would lick your old Zippo? It’s certainly not a light whisky, it’s rather some kind of peppered grapefruit juice blended with liquid smoke in which you would have let cedar wood, bitter almonds and bits of kippers infuse for a good two weeks. There’s clearly some oak but it would come with some mint and lime peel, which just always works. With water: some pine resin and a little black tobacco from the oak, otherwise some chocolate, oranges, pepper, black tea, and more and more cinnamon. Indeed that’s the oak, but everything remained under control, you would never say this is oaky whisky. Finish: medium to long, rather on smoked tea, more cinnamon, marzipan, cocoa and notes of putty. Comments: superb old Port Ellen that rather managed to keep the oak at bay, even if I wouldn’t try to bring these casks to the ripe old age of 45. Better rebuilld the place and restart distilling ;-).
SGP:466 - 91 points.

Happy virtual Feis Ile everyone, and cheers to all the fine people at the distilleries and everywhere on Islay!

(Thank you Angus, thank you K.C.!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Port Ellen we've tasted so far







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