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Port Ellen Maltings was one of the first whisky related structures I saw as I drove into Bowmore from Islay Airport. It's nothing but a huge drab structure with massive chimneys billowing peat smoke. And there's pretty much nothing there to remind you of the distillery that once stood there till 1983. Except for maybe the warehouses that now hold all the malted barley consumed by the distilleries on the island instead of rows and rows of casks maturing Port Ellen whisky as they rightfully should.
You see the distillery has been closed for 32 years, which coincidentally is the exact age of the whisky I am writing about, however, there is constant malting taking place there to supply the islands' distilleries. The malting is an automated process and prepares the malt to the exact specifications of each distillery. This is quite a convenient little process allowing the distilleries to free up malting floors and convert them to more lucrative functions like maturation.
My first Port Ellen was a single cask Part Des Anges distilled in 1982 and aged for 24 years. Unfortunately for me I had it very early on in my career as a whisky enthusiast and, while appreciated, did not truly grasp the true essence of tasting that rare liquid.
This time around I wasn't going to make the same mistake.
Unveiled at a stunning tasting I attended a couple of days ago I excused my self rather rudely from the rest of the guests and found my self a secluded corner to sit and savor this piece of whisky history.
Distilled in 1979 and matured in second-fill American Oak for 32 years this is, by far, one of the most sublime whiskies I have ever tasted. My sample is from a brand new bottled and served at a cask strength of 53.9%
Before I begin let me tell you everything about this whisky is an essay in perfection. The poise. The balance. The lightness of the smoke. The hint of peat. That lime. That zest. Those green pears. A touch of hay. Enveloped in a coal fire those under-ripe green berries. That delicate sweet vanilla. That soft brine on green olives. So much understatement, yet, everything so profound. This is perfect. This is what dreams are made of. 25/25
If the nose was an essay in perfection the palate is like rain after drought. The perfect mouthfeel coated in sharp white pepper pricks of pleasure. The smoke is back. So is the lime. And the zest. Vanilla pudding. Perfectly poised oak. Ash. Green pears. Ground spice. The spirit sits on your palate and coats it wonderfully. Each flavor sublime on it's own. 25/25
Wonderfully long and smooth. Ash. Oak. Lime. Lemon. 24/25
I don't know what to say, really. I'm at a complete loss for words here. This is truly one of the most beautifully crafted whiskies mere mortals have ever made. Diageo makes a killing every time it releases a disgustingly priced bottle from the stocks lying around. But let me tell you something. What ever the price, this one is a bargain.