Special Releases 2016, Port Ellen 37yo

door | november 9, 2020
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And now, the end is near… The last sample of Diageo’s Special Releases 2016 is in our glencairns. As you may remeber, last week we had to make a difficult choice between two closed distilleries. Quite a luxurious choice as well. It’s not every week we have to make a choice between a 38yo Brora and a 37yo Port Ellen. We chose the Brora first so now it’s time to taste the Port Ellen.


Port Ellen originally was founded as a malt mill on the south coast of Islay. Between 1833 and 1892 the company developed into a major distillery. In 1925 the Distillers Company Limited bought the distillery and they stopped producing whisky in 1930. 36 years later they started to rebuild the distillery to modern standards and in 1967 production was started again. Port Ellen whisky’s were distilled untill the distillery was closed again in 1983. The old warehouses are still there and so is the malting floor, still producing malted barley for the other Islay distilleries. Port Ellen whisky’s are becoming a rarity. Bottles like this one therefore have a price tag “normal” people can’t afford. These bottles are more and more becoming collectors items.

The whisky was distilled in 1978. It was matured in refill American hogsheads and refill european oak butts. After 38 years the casks were selected, married and bottled at an ABV of an impressive 55,2%, especially at this age. Only 2940 bottles were filled. For us it’s very special to be able to have a taste of this rarity.

Notes by Peter

  • Nose: Smoke and a lot of wood. Meat like bacon, wax, sweet honey, chocolate and vanilla.
  • Taste: Sweet and spicy! A nice combination of sweet smoked meat with orange on top. Some tropical fruit, vanilla, caramel and herbs.
  • Finish: Medium long. Spicy, pepper, then sweetness and smoke.

What a wonderfull Whisky! I’m happy to try this one, because it is Port Ellen and it’s a 1978, the year I was born. 

Notes by Jeroen

  • Nose: Smoky? Yes but not too much. Quite subtle actually. At first it’s mostly the American oak influence I get. Honey and lemon marinated ham on a barbecue. After a while some of the sherry notes pop up as well. Dark chocolate.
  • Taste: This is special! German sweet white wine. Lemon, grapes and just a hint of spice. The smoke is very subtle in the taste as well and that’s a good thing in my opinion. Again sweet and smoky barbecued meat.
  • Finish: Nice and warming. Sweet and a hint of smoke. I like a finish to be a bit longer though.

This Port Ellen doesn’t take first place in my opinion. Last week’s Brora is my favorite in this series but that doesn’t mean I don’t like the Port Ellen. Of course I do, for me it takes second place.  

The past ten weeks we’ve been treated to some very nice whisky’s. Diageo’s series surely hosts some Special Releases. Too bad that a lot of them will end as collector’s items. Oh well, at least we have tasted them and we reviewed them our way. We hope you all enjoyed it. We sure did.

Thanks Diageo Netherlands! 

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