Look at the humble label on this bottle of Port Ellen Scotch whisky and you’ll probably see the big “8,” immediately assuming this is a simple, eight-year-old spirit. The pale yellow color certainly wouldn’t indicate otherwise… but check the fine print. Distilled in 1979 (some bottles may say 1978), this whisky’s been aging for 29 long years. The “8” refers to the release sequence: This is the “Eighth Release” of Port Ellen’s single malt.
From the Islay region, this is a huge seaside Scotch, powerful with iodine and salt on first taste and never letting up. The smoke gets in your eyes (and every other cavity) from there, the heavy, heavy peating creating a nostalgic, antiseptic character in the Scotch. Sweetness comes and goes, but it’s fleeting — a little water helps bring out these notes; at 110.6 proof, it’s crazy hot without a drop or two. The iodine returns to close out the whisky, leaving you dreaming fondly of that nurse who cared for you in Key West that time you had typhus.