Sep 222015

I think overall, this is my favorite expression of them all and with no further ado, the tasting notes:

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Port Ellen 6th Annual Release (2006), Vintage 1978, 27 Year old (54.2% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold, very thin and slow legs coming off a long lasting ring.

Nose: The peat is, by far, the most pronounced in the five expressions. This peat has quite the BBQ aroma with fresh green leaves, salt and malt. Water brings out a lot of honey and mellows the smoky peat.

Palate: Honey and peat with pomelo (citrus grandis). Water brings out more spice and some fizz with more grapefruit like bitterness.

Linger: Sweet averall with a bitter smoke tang. Some dryness and a lingering spiciness. The finish is the best of the five drams.


This is the most refined of the five expressions tasted in this flight. To me, this is the quintessential bourbon cask matured Port Ellen. The next post in the series, number eight, will venture into sherry territory….

Sep 192015

The 5th release is the third 1979 vintage in the series, with the 1st release presenting a 22 year old, the 3rd release (reviewed here) with a 24 year old and now the 5th with a 25 year old. This annual alternation between the 1979 and 1978 vintage goes on upto, and through, the 11th release, with six 1979 expressions and five 1978 ones. Then, however, another 1979 appeared for the 12th release, and 1978 appeared again for both the 13th and 14 release. Now the 15th release skips forward to the year of doom, 1983.

Should there still be any remaining stocks of 1978 whisky, if it makes a return, it will be at least 36 years old. There have been quite a few older whiskies bottled in the Special Releases range, so no special worries there.

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Port Ellen 5th Annual Release (2005), Vintage 1979, 25 Year old (57.4% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold, there’s quite a bit of residue, with droplets all over the glass.

Nose: Sweet and distant honey. The peat is completely subdued. Green leaves and a feinty, plastic likenote. Water strengthens the honey notes with some smoking meat notes developing.

Palate: Fizzy peat, pepper, bitter citrus with some grapefruit. The palate on this release is pretty balanced, and is probably the most balanced of the releases I’ve had so far.

Linger: Peaty/smoky all around the mouth, some tangyness inside the cheeks and spice up high in the throat. Sweetness on the tongue lingers on after the peat.


This is the most balanced of the four expressions I’ve had this far in the tasting flight. It’s sweeter, less spicy and not chalky, and is – thus – probably the one that will suit most pallets.

Sep 162015

The 4th release of 2004 was where Diageo started reducing the number of bottles toward today’s standard of almost 3,000 bottles, although there were exceptions to that (it seems like the desired level for those years was around 5,000 bottles, with the 6th not quite making it there). It seems that the 1st release was an experiment, then levels were quickly adjusted to about 5,000-6,000, and later to 3,000, beginning with the 10th release.

1st Release: 6,000

2nd Release: 12,000

3rd Release: 9,000

4th Release: 5,100

5th Release: 5,280

6th Release: 4,560

7th Release: 5,274

8th Release: 6,618

9th Release: 5,916

10th Release: 3,000

11th Release: 2,988

12th Release: 2,964

13th Release: 2,958

14th Release: 2,964

15th Release: 2,964

The 4th Release is considered one of the harder Port Ellen expressions to find, and is one of several Annual Releases from the 1978 vintage.


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Port Ellen 4th Annual Release (2004), Vintage 1978, 25 Year old (56.2% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold, slow and thin legs.

Nose: Piney peat, licorice, cereal, green leaves, honey and dry white wine. Water releases some fruity sweetness, again those red apples found in the 3rd Release with the peat almost totally dissipating.

Palate: Sweet and fizzy, water takes it to peppery realms, which joined by the peat creates a very mouth warming dram with some chalkiness.

Linger: Honey on the tongue, peat and very mild spice in the back of the throat. The linger is rather sweet. With the addition of water, the spice come out more and the peat lingers longer in the throat.


Somewhat more “farmy” than the 2nd and 3rd Releases, the 4th brings some different notes into the mix, with pine and licorice. Interesting. May the 4th be with you!

Sep 142015

The 3rd annual release came in 2003, and is still a 24 year old, this time distilled in 1979.

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In 2003, alongside the Port Ellen 3rd release came a 50 year old Glenury Royal (it was priced then at £950), a 32 year old Oban, distilled in 1969 (one that I’ve been trying to get a taste of for quite a while), a 20 year old bourbon cask matured Talisker, the annual 12 year old Lagavulin, the second Brora – a 30 year old, a 29 year old Dalwhinnie and a 29 year old Cragganmore, a 28 year old Glen Ord and a 32 year old Glen Elgin. I’ll just mention that a 34 year old Dalwhinnie is coming back this year after an absence in the lineup.

The 3rd Release is somewhat more maritime than the 2nd.

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Port Ellen 3rd Annual Release (2003), Vintage 1979, 24 Year old (57.3% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold, thin legs running off a ring.

Nose: On first sniff it seems saltier and more tart on the nose than the 2nd release. I get salt and honey, and the nose isn’t overly peaty. Slightly musty with sweetness. Water brings out dust and sweetness with a light red apple note. With time in the glass, the nose becomes very clean, displaying classic bourbon cask characteristics, with very little peat.

Palate: Not as sweet as the nose suggested it would be, and significantly spicier than the second release. Lots of chili pepper, and the sweetness is hidden underneath. The peat is very much alive on the palate, and the whisky is dry and has a chalky feel to it.

Linger: Spice and peat all over the mouth with some spice burn high in the throat. There is, again, very little sweetness in the linger.


Definitely more interesting than the 2nd Release, this one will appeal to you if you like your whisky on the less sweet side.

Being Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year’s day) I’d like to wish you a happy new year. May 5777 bring you much happiness and success, and my you find those elusive drams you’ve been after 🙂

Sep 132015

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.

Port Ellen Tasting Helsinki

Port Ellen Tasting Helsinki

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)

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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…