Single malt whisky - tasting notes

17 Feb 2011

Port Ellen 10th release (1978)

Tasting notes by Ruben Luyten - Posted in Port Ellen

This is our 600th post on WhiskyNotes. Traditionally, we’re celebrating round numbers with something special.

Port EllenThe 10th annual release of Port Ellen had the lowest yield ever: just 3000 bottles (other releases were generally between 5000 to 12.000). Let’s see how it compares to the others, and let’s hope this wasn’t the final release.


Port Ellen 10th release 1978Port Ellen 31 yo 1978 ‘10th release’
(54,6%, OB 2010, 3000 btl.)

Nose: exactly the kind of Port Ellen I like. Peat as a supporting act rather than a show stealer. Quite coastal and sooty, but in an elegant way. Subtle candied notes, a little honey, yellow apples… some vanilla… sweet almonds… Lovely wax as well. Now that I think about it, I adore waxy notes and they’re missing in too many Port Ellens but here it is! Bonus point. Faint medicinal notes as well. Traces of cured meat (cecina de León). Very complex and so smooth! Stunning. Mouth: again it doesn’t come rolling in. Starts sweetish and spicy before going to salty, kippery and herbal notes. Quite medicinal and ashy now, with sharp lemon. Perfect development, with a crescendo from rounder notes to sharper elements, as if the nose was meant to mislead us before showing its true character. Again wow. Finish: very long, ashy, with coal smoke, lemon and a bitter /
salty combo.

My first impression was to put this on the same height as my (so far) favourite Port Ellen 7th release. That one shows more emphasis on floral notes and vanilla, but both share a mix of feminine and masculine Port Ellen, if you know what I mean, and these are the most beautiful expressions in my opinion. After a direct comparison, the 10th release is wider and more complex, as well as a little more typically PE, so it deserves a higher score. We have a new favourite.

Priced around € 275 at the time, but now only found at much higher prices. Luckily there’s a fixed distribution ratio among countries, so my best guess would be Spain or Portugal where there are less collectors.

Score: 95/100

Port Ellen 10th release (1978) 5 Ruben Luyten 2011-02-17
  • gal


  • Ruben

    Perfect conclusion.

  • aw

    Noooooooo!! Morning of release I hit the UK websites and it’s already sold out! And then it turns out to be totally awesome – argh! Couldn’t you have said that it was disappointing and not really worth it?!

    But seriously, can anyone explain the low yield on this? Are low yields for the Annual Releases what we should expect from now on?

  • Ruben

    Yes I suppose they’re trying to have as much releases as possible and (official) stocks are lowering. They probably think of the higher desirability as an advantage as well.

  • Johan

    Nice review Ruben, but here I slightly disagree. I could taste this whisky a month or two ago, however not in a review mode. I liked it a lot but for me it isn’t as stellar as you and f.i. Serge have rated it. It didn’t feel like drowning the other official releases. One of the best, that for sure. But perhaps I need to give it another (and more extensive) go.

  • Tim F

    I really liked this one and thought it was much better than the last couple of AR’s. The 2nd release is still my fave though – I think the first three are head and shoulders above all the later versions.

    That hasn’t stopped me salting one of these away, though – imo it’s preposterous that these are already selling for more than the Rare Malt releases, both of which are stunning.

  • Michael

    Thank you for the review Ruben. I am still hoping to get it (that is at least what I am told) but am not holding my breath.

  • Dirk

    I also slightly disagree. We had the Annual Releases 1 to 9 in one line-up last May in Port Ellen.
    The best way to compare … winner was AR 7 and 3, 6 and 9 were very close. I tasted AR 10 last weekend in Ghent and it is great but I had greater PEs.
    And nice to know … all odd releases are 1979 … all even releases are 1978 …

  • Ruben

    Curious, PE7 was my favourite, then 9 and 3 so it seems to match. Are you sure it wasn’t because of the festival conditions? I’ve compared PE7 and PA10 head-to-head in the quiet environment of my home 😉 But I’ll surely do another verticale soon, just to be sure.

  • Duffer_dk

    It might be one of the best whiskies ever – but no whisky is worth that money IMHO.
    Quote Raymond Armstrong: “No whisky is worth more than 50 £”

  • Ruben

    A work of art is generally just £ 10 worth of paint yet most of us agree some are priceless.

  • Bert B.

    I agree with Dirk and Johan. The 10th release isn’t the best Annual Release. I also had a head-to-head with some friends from the first up to the 6th I think, and the 3 was the best by far.

    To me, the 10th was a disappointment … especially when you look at the price.

    B. !!!

  • Michael

    Duffer_dk said: It might be one of the best whiskies ever – but no whisky is worth that money IMHO.
    Quote Raymond Armstrong: “No whisky is worth more than 50 £”

    With due respect, this is just plain silly. You do not even buy decent wine for that. I am just curious what you drink theses days. Who is Raymond Armstrong, anyway?

  • Michael

    I have not had Port Ellen 31YO yet but I somehow trust Ruben and Serge more than other tasters :-)

  • Ruben

    You should get to know Bert, Dirk and Johan, they’re very trustworthy tasters with more whisky experience than myself 😉
    I have an open bottle of the 3rd and while it’s very good I never understood why so many think it’s the best one. It’s more grassy, fintly and sharp – classic notes for Port Ellen of course, just not entirely my preference.
    @Bert: You can’t really compare prices. The 3rd release is cheaper because its price was set seven years ago. They’re getting more expensive but roughly at the same pace as the rest of the whisky market. Want to trade for an Ardbeg single cask? 😉

  • MARS

    You can get very good wine for less than 20€. Especially if they are white(I don’t like a lot red wine).
    Raymond amstrong is the owner of bladnoch.

  • Rannoch Moor

    I think people will always have their favourite PE OB. I tasted the 10th at Ths Whiskyshow and thought it was the best whisky of the show. So I agree with Ruben that this one is top notch PE. Hooray for differnt opinions…

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November 2015
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Coming up

  • Lindores 2015 festival bottling
  • Amrut 2009 (cask #2701)
  • Glenlivet 1981 (#9468 for TWE)
  • Lagavulin Distillers Edition (2015)
  • Talisker Distillers Edition (2015)
  • Laphroaig 32 Year Old
  • Glen Grant 65yo 1950 cask #2747 for Wealth Solutions
  • Mortlach 1959/1960 (G&M Royal Wedding)

1932 notes by Ruben

WhiskyNotes - Ruben LuytenThis blog is my personal collection of impressions, written while searching for the ultimate single malt whisky.