I hadn’t tried official Port Ellen releases since the 12th release in 2012, simply because I couldn’t find a sample, let alone afford a bottle. I’ve tried few independent Port Ellen expressions the last few years for that matter – it is now a truly rare whisky.
Now I had the chance to try the 2016 release. It is 37 years old.
Port Ellen 37 yo 1978 ‘16th release’ (55,2%, OB 2016, 2940 btl.)
Nose: starts earthy and coastal, on fishing nets, damp canvas, a bit of shoe polish. Lots of leathery notes as well. Waxed papers. Thinking about it, these notes are very similar to the Brora. Or to a Banff for instance, or other idiosyncratic old-style malts. Only this has a bigger sooty layer. Over time it becomes rounder, but not much, with some unripe pineapple and verbena. And after a lot of time also a buttery, creamy vanilla touch. Overall though one of the sharper years.
Mouth: confirmation of the sharpness. Saltwater, liquorice, lots of ashes and earthy notes. Camphor. Still a touch of mint and vanilla sweetness but very shy. Light pepper. A hint of mustard cress.
Finish: long, with earth and peat, as well as verbena and the bitter-sweetness of burnt sugar.
While trying this at the masterclass, I heard some people say ‘as much as we want to hate it, it’s simply too good’. It is, and I especially like the combination of sharpness and elegance. Of course € 3000 is outrageous (especially because you can still buy earlier releases for significantly less), but I can confirm it’s damn good.