Review: Port Ellen 32 Years Old Limited Edition 2015

Port Ellen 15

And, for last: The unicorn, Port Ellen 32.

After years of incrementing the age on the most-treasured release of the Diageo Special Releases — Port Ellen — the company has taken a step back. While 2014’s edition was a 35 year old distilled in 1978, this year’s is a 32 year old distilled in 1983, the year in which Port Ellen was shut down.

In other words: We’re getting to the end of the line of Port Ellen, so if the price tag doesn’t put you off, it’s time to pick up a bottle or two.

This 2015 edition of Port Ellen, aged in refill European oak, is a bold expression of three-decade-old PE that won’t offer many surprises to fans of this distillery’s style. The nose features sharp citrus and tons of smokiness, a chewy blazer from the get-go that pours on the peat. While prior expressions of old Port Ellen utilize smoke almost as an afterthought, here it’s a touchstone that defines the spirit.

Water helps to settle down a spirit that is loaded with barbecue smoke and juicy sherry notes. Tempered, it shows a far more nuanced fruit character, including classic banana, peach, and some golden raisins. The smoke takes a back seat, as it should on this spirit.

Still, I can’t help but feel that in the five years that passed between when the last edition of Port Ellen was distilled and this one was, something has been lost. A whisky from a distillery’s final year of production may mean a magical rarity — but it may also mean you’re getting something from the final season of Lost. Were things going south at Port Ellen, things which necessitated its closure? Were corners being cut? I don’t have the details, but I do feel like the magic seems to have seeped out of this whisky a bit in those five lost years.

It’s still a good whisky, mind you. Just not $3500 good.

107.8 proof. 2964 bottles produced.

A- / $3500 / malts.com

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1 Response

  1. Ben McNeil February 21, 2016 / 10:42 am

    At the end of its life, Port Ellen was considered to be inferior to Caol Ila, and they didn’t need two distilleries, so out it went.

    It’s a good cautionary tale. I’ve had a lot of Stitzel-Weller stuff distilled in their twilight years from the late ’80s to 1991, and they’ve been pretty awful, at least to my palate.

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