Single malt whisky - tasting notes

28 May 2014

Port Ellen 1983 (Maltbarn)

Tasting notes by Ruben Luyten - Posted in Port Ellen

This Port Ellen 1983 is one of the new releases from Maltbarn, presented at The Whisky Fair in Limburg, yet it was bottled back in 2012.

Port Ellen is virtually impossible to get these days, especially for independent bottlers. Maybe this was a leftover or ‘lost stock’, or maybe Martin Diekmann already bought them some time ago and decided to wait a while before bringing them to the market.


Port Ellen 1983/2002 MaltbarnPort Ellen 29 yo 1983 (52%, Maltbarn 2012, bourbon cask, 86 btl.)

Nose: very pure, with classic notes of linseed oil and walnuts. Tarry ropes, wet stones, a bit of soot, tar and charcoal. Hints of camphor. A nose that stays on the mineral / coastal side – no loud vanilla or sweetness here, although there is definitely an almond and citrus roundness after a while. Unfolds nicely – not immensely complex, but rather perfectly on target. Mouth: definitely more sweetness now. Sweet peat, creamy lemon and almond oil. Cocoa and a vague fruitiness. A little ginger with briny notes. Fades on white pepper and ashes, with a soft herbal bitterness. Finish: long, still quite balanced. Salty almonds and ashes.

An excellent Port Ellen. On the nose it seemed to be too mineral / rough for my preferences, but it gains balance over time and comes out quite wonderfully. Really nice but expensive: around € 600.

Score: 92/100


I guess this could be something we’re going to see more often in the future: intentional delaying (not to say speculation) among bottlers, especially for rare distilleries. If you don’t need the cash right away, then you might as well bottle a cask and keep the bottles behind to release them at a later point, at a higher price. At the time of bottling, merely two years ago, this would have been sold for around € 250.

Port Ellen 1983 (Maltbarn) 4.5 Ruben Luyten 2014-05-28
  • My Annoying Opinions

    At €250 I might have been able to make a splurge; at €600 it is way out of my league, quality be damned.

    Interestingly, a few bottles of this have hung around for almost a week in the Whiskybase shop. Your review will probably move them but even if so, it suggests that the new “normal” price for indie Port Ellens is pushing it for most whisky geeks.

  • Dick

    Perhaps it is time to put a price cap on the whiskies that you reviewing?
    Say anything above 100 euro for an 18yo, 200 for a 30 yo, 300 for 40yo etc…and 60 for nas

    If most bloggers agreed to this then there would be an impact..

  • Wim

    Would it have the same high score when you were blind tasting it? I doubt it…

  • WhiskyNotes

    I tend to review what I find interesting (for whatever reason). Being able to buy it is not a prerequisite for me. A cheap blend can be interesting, a € 2000 whisky as well. Maybe there’s room for a “bang-for-your-buck” blog but someone else will have to write it, I’m afraid… I try to find a nice balance for different budgets.

    I also think this is too expensive, but not reviewing it is not going to bring back affordable Port Ellen.

  • WhiskyNotes

    I like subtle Islay whiskies and they really stand out among the modern peat monsters these days. I’ve tried it alongside other Port Ellens so at least the score can be related to others, whether or not they were tasted blindly.

  • Jacopo (WhiskyFacile)

    We, malty nerds, use to blame ‘big evil companies’ for pushing the market to its limits and for being greedy; shouldn’t we blame this kind of operations too, even if they’re obviously legit and respectable? Just a question, no polemical intent.

  • Maltbarn

    thanks for your review, Ruben. To clarify things: when I bought these bottles they already cost me a lot more than the 250 Euros you mentioned as the sales price but true, I held them back a little to present them in Limburg which I thought was the perfect place to present it. So I make some money with it and I have to, but at least part of the speculation is made on the side of the supplier. Still, I am very happy I released it. As you say yourself it`s a great
    dram and it definetely was the last chance for me to come up with a PE.
    Best regards

  • WhiskyNotes

    Thank you Martin. A great dram for sure.

    Yes, of course, it would not have been possible to release a PE in another way than this. In fact I’m surprised we’re not seeing this practice more often.

  • Daniel

    I tried this PE in Limburg and it really stands out. And to say more it stood out among much older and more expensive bottles which I tried during Festival. I even thought that it will be difficult for it to get really high score and become one of the best PE. For me it is. And you are right it’s expensive. 600 euro is a lot of money. But you can also buy a crap for this price. ;(

  • My Annoying Opinions

    Interesting. Do I understand correctly that you purchased bottles and relabeled them? Or did you mean you purchased (part of) the cask from which these came?

    If the former, I don’t suppose the source had “Old” in its name….

  • WhiskyNotes

    I don’t think they were relabeled (as in sold with a different label before). Nowadays when you buy (part of) a cask, you always buy unlabeled bottles as the cask is emptied in Scotland.

  • Maltbarn

    no these are not relabeled, they were part of a cask.

  • pb

    There’s actually a “bang for your buck” list in the blog



November 2015
« Oct    

Coming up

  • 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)

1933 notes by Ruben

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