Port Ellen 1979 32 Year Old 12th Annual Release

Port Ellen 1979 32 Year Old 12th Annual Release

$5,950 AUD

52.5% 70 cl

This Port Ellen 12th Annual Release, was distilled in 1979 and matured for 32 years until it was bottled in 2012 as part of the Diageo Special Releases. This whisky was bottled at a cask strength of 52.5% and limited to 2964 bottles.

The fill is well into the neck and the accompanying presentation box is in good order.

Tasting Notes

Nose: very maritime. Brine, seashells, oysters, camphor, wet gravel… Lots of mineral and a few floral hints too. Subtle smoke and iodine. Fresh, sharp and focused, sure, but too one-dimensional for an official Port Ellen in my opinion. Water helps, it brings out lemon and rhubarb, as well as an oriental wood scent. Aromatic, but maybe not a total benchmark. 

Mouth: peaty and briney, medium weight, with ashes and a grapefruit bitterness. Hints of gentian. Seaweed. Then a herbalness and leathery notes. Resinous oak. Cold smoke. Again a tad too focused on the earthy, mineral and pungent side of PE. Sweet and sour kiwi notes or faint vanilla only come out very late and in tiny amounts. Finish: dry, long, fairly zesty and coastal with liquorice and a pinch of salt. 

This product is located in the United Kingdom.


Port Ellen Distillery

The recent announcement by Diageo of their intention to bring Port Ellen, like Brora, back into production can only enhance the value of surviving bottlings of the original Port Ellen and perhaps even more so once the new expressions are eventually made available, which will be some years hence.

 Port Ellen played a very significant role in the development of the Scotch whisky industry and much of the credit for that goes to John Ramsay who purchased the distillery in 1836 from the original owners who had built it in 1825 based on a converted malt mill. Amongst other things, Ramsay pioneered the export of Scotch whisky to the United States and did so directly from Port Ellen. The spirit safe was first introduced at Port Ellen and Ramsay pioneered the adoption of duty-free bonded warehousing and even had research work done on the use of the patent still for the production of grain whisky. The distillery remained with the Ramsay family until 1920 when it was acquired jointly by James Buchanan and Company and John Dewar and Sons Ltd, both of which merged with DCL in 1925. Inexplicably, Port Ellen then went silent from 1929 until 1966 when major renovation and expansion took place. This included in 1973 new drum maltings, which were erected alongside the distillery, initially to supply malt for DCL’s three Islay operations, i.e. Caol Ila, Lagavulin, and Port Ellen. The latter was closed, however, in 1983 never to re-open.

 Up until then Port Ellen had been used exclusively in blending but a number of casks from the 10,000, which were present when I made my visit in 1985, were released to independent merchants.  As a result, an array of Port Ellen expressions has appeared over the years and an occasional official bottling, particularly in the Rare Malts and Special Release series.