Tracking down a Unicorn
Port Ellen, the only Islay distillery left on my list and for a layman like me one of the hardest to track down, not just because of its scarcity (debatable), but mainly because you’ll need deep pockets.
Stalking the prey
Of all the Lost Distilleries, Port Ellen and Brora are probably the best known by the general malt enthusiasts and collectors/investors, thus the price you’ll pay for a bottle will always be high for the actual content.
But a Whisky enthousiast like me just has to know what the fuzz is all about and soon enough the day came when I simply couldn’t resist any longer and decided it was time to burn some money on an expensive malt
As official bottles are out of my price range, I turned towards independent bottlers. Checked various bottlings with the whisky-monitor, to get the best price/quality bottle I could track down. I was tracking down my Unicorn and now that I have this glass in my hand, I believe it is time to take a shot at this mythical beast.
This is a 28yo Port Ellen from 1982, bottled by Old Bothwell for the Whiskysite.nl, from a sherry puncheon refill. The sample came from whiskyhuis, only 100 bottles were distributed. No colouring added, no chill filtration.
Here goes nothing…
Nose: A clean sherried nose, but complex: peaty smoky notes, but not too dominant, apples, cherries, a whiff of salt and sand, vanilla, hints of citrus, like a lemon cheese cake and dates covered in syrup. (This is no peat monster, this a gentle and slender gazelle, delicate, refined and complex. Like sitting by a campfire on the beach, with a hamper full of delicious treats.)
Mouth: Only had this a few times before: a malt that seems to explode in your mouth. It rests on your tongue, as if it was a piece of candy and then suddenly it bursts into pieces, gently wrapping itself around your tongue. Full bodied and complex. Predominantly sherry, but notes of vanilla sticks, red wine, powerful cinnamon,cherries and cashew nuts, but also spicy with chili peppers
Finish: Nice and long dry finish; oily and tarry, with cinnamon and whiffs of orange peels.
|Was it worth it? I must admit it was. Am I willing to buy a bottle at the current market price? No I am not. This is a great whisky, from what was probably one of the greatest distilleries. But all that is gone now, Diageo made sure of that, all that’s left are overpriced bottles that will probably remain on a shelf or in some rich man’s safe until the bubble bursts.
I had my taste now and I must admit that I’m sad to say that this first encounter will probably be our last. I had the opportunity to try it before it’s all gone. But if you want to spend your money wisely, there are some great malts available on the market nowadays, at a fraction of this price.
No need to keep pondering about what was lost, you’re probably missing out on something great, available for a regular jack, like you and me. No need to wait before they close another one. So this is my way of saying goodbye to the Port Ellen distillery, thank you for this experience, it was a pleasure making your acquaintance, now rest in peace, beautiful unicorn.