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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 11th annual release of 2011, a 32-year old from 1979.
The nose is light and just slightly smoky. As in previous releases there are lots of lemon flavours, together with apples, furniture polish, and a touch of butter. With water this panoply of flavours turns lightly sour. All in all quite an austere nose, with just very soft smoke in the background.
The palate is medium-bodied, spicy and rather dry. The lemon flavours are now more prominent than on the nose, but so is the peat! Brine is followed by salt, seaweed, and a rather distinct oakiness. With water the nose gets quite ashy and sooty, and more fruit characters develop, such as oranges and figs.
The finish is long and dry. Lemon and vanilla mingle with briny and ashy notes.
This is another great release from Port Ellen although the distinct oakiness on the palate took me a little bit by surprise. Also, I was puzzled by the sour flavours that developed on the nose once I had added water. So, in other words, this is not my favourite Port Ellen but still a very, very good whisky!