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Rated A- Reviews Scotch Whisky Whiskey

Review: Port Ellen 32 Years Old Limited Edition 2015

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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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Christopher Null

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content company.

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1 Comments

  1. Ben McNeil February 21, 2016

    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.

    Reply

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