My friend Eitan Tamir is an Israeli expat living in Helsinki, where they throw the most crazy whisky tastings on a regular basis. He went to a tasting of five Port Ellen official releases, the Second through the sixth releases. Conveniently, he was coming to Tel Aviv the following week, so I bought a virtual seat at the table.
Eitan brought the five samples with him to Tel Aviv, and we enjoyed a lovely evening at a local watering hole joined by his brother.
Port Ellen has been a perennial staple of the annual Special Releases, and we’re fast approaching the 15th release. From the United States Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) early filings, we already know that it will be a 1983 vintage, 32 year old bottled at 53.9% ABV.
I’ll just mention that beginning in 2001, the yearly Special Releases have gradually replaced the semi annual Rare Malts Selection releases, which dried up in 2004, after 121 expressions being released from 36 different distilleries, including two 1978 Port Ellens (released in 1998 and in 2000).
In the heart of this series is this five part tasting of the second to sixth official releases. We’ll start with the 2nd release and contrast them as we go along.
Port Ellen 2nd Release (2002), Vintage 1978, 24 Year old (59.35% ABV, NCF, NC)
Appearance: Gold, pretty viscous on the sides of the glass.
Nose: Honey and floral at first with some very subdued peat, opening toward smoky honey with a hint of custard. Water brings out a sweet floral note, sort of like sweet peas from a distance, burnt sticks and smoked fish with some caramel. The smoked fish and caramel take some time to appear on the nose, though.
Palate: Concentrated sweetness, peat, some harsh pepper appears after that sweet first attack. After time and some water, you’ll get some nice bitter notes.
Linger: Slightly sour and peaty. Some pepper down the gullet with a light dryness in the mouth. With water, the linger less spicy and much sweeter with a more pronounced peatiness.
A nice dram, though far less interesting than other Port Ellen expressions I’ve had. To me, this bottle is hardly worth anywhere near the £900 a bottle recently commanded at auction (so that’s basically £1000 with fees). Yes, it’s scarce and might be worth a grand for showing off (obviously someone actually paid that sum for it), but for your drinking pleasure, this isn’t the bottle to buy.
Our next post will see how the third release fared…