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Port Ellen distillery was founded in 1825 on the southern shore of Islay by Alexander Kerr Mackay. Between 1825 and 1836 ownership of the distillery changed a couple of times, but after John Ramsay was granted a lease on Port Ellen in 1836 it was operated by him and his descendants until the distillery was sold to the Port Ellen Distillery Co. Ltd. in 1920. The ownership of the distillery saw a few more changes before it was mothballed by Distillers Company Limited (DCL) in 1930. No whisky was distilled at Port Ellen for almost 40 years, although the maltings and warehouses that belonged to the distillery remained in use throughout this period. Production resumed in April 1967 after the number of stills had been doubled from two to four. In 1983 the distillery was mothballed and closed permanently in 1987. However, the drum maltings that were installed in 1973 are still in use and continue to deliver malt to all Islay distilleries (and a few others). In 2001 Diageo began releasing one official bottling per year. This is the 6th annual release of 2006, a 27-year old from 1978.
The nose is slightly phenolic and briny. Vanilla, lemon and a biscuit-like element bring distinctly sweet flavours to the nose. Smoke is at the back the whole time and creeps in right at the end, together with a light grassiness.
The palate is rather different from the nose. It is oily, slightly peppery but also austere with flavours like furniture polish and duct tape. There is again brine but less dominant than it was on the nose. Hints of seafood complete the palate. Altogether the flavours are rather light, almost flighty.
The finish is very long and really, really warming. Smoke and pepper are mingling with vanilla and seafood notes.
A stunning whisky! On the one hand this was rather austere, on the other hand it delivered a delightful mix of phenolic and fruity elements. Also, this was probably one of the most superb finishes I have ever encountered in a whisky so far. Brillant!