PORT ELLEN 1978 AGED 37 YEARS 16TH RELEASE ~ ISLAY, SCOTLAND
This is a natural cask strength single malt whisky matured in refill American oak hogshead and refill European oak butts. Unlike most of this year's Special Releases, this whisky was distilled at Port Ellen on Islay, the legendary closed distillery that sadly fell silent back in 1983. In fact, at the time of release in September 2016, this is the oldest ever bottling of Port Ellen's sought-after single malt. 2,940 bottles have been produced for the 16th release from Diageo's ever-depleting supplies.
Nose - Sugared almonds, chamois leather, sherbet lemons, oily smoke, a hint of empty fish tins, brine, floral heather honey, and bung cloth.
Palate - Sweet and oily to start, it quickly turns to sour apple with a big kick of spice – rye bread, nutmeg, and white pepper. Behind that punch are leathery notes, caramel, treacle toffee, and liquorice, with dark chocolate, blackcurrant jam and oaky smoke sitting right at the back. Water brings out more spice and fruit – apple leather, black pepper, and freshly scraped vanilla pods.
Finish - Driftwood, green leaves and forest ponds to start, with soft liquorice notes building before fading to sweet dark chocolate with a hint of fennel.
-Billy Abbott (TWE)
The Port Ellen distillery was founded in 1825 by Alexander Ker Mackay. The Port Ellen whisky distillery remained in Ramsay family hands until 1920, when John Dewar & Sons and James Buchanan & Co purchased it, merging with Distillers Company Limited five years later. In 1930, the Port Ellen distillery was transferred to Scottish Malt Distillers.
The distillery had ceased whisky production a year prior but continued to malt barley. Indeed, to this day the maltings at Port Ellen supply most of the distilleries on Islay as well as the Isle of Jura distillery. There have been both independent releases as well as a handful of official bottlings. Diageo announced in October 2017 it will revive Port Ellen and rebuild the distillery.