Whisky Advocate

Review: Port Ellen 29 year old

February 3rd, 2009

This whisky was recently released about the same time as the Brora 25 year old, which I reviewed here two days ago.

Port Ellen, 29 year old, 55.3%, $400
An elder Port Ellen, but still showing plenty of Port Ellen character. It’s chock full of kiln smoke, damp forest bed, seaweed, charcoal, brine, and tar. Additional notes of licorice root, kalamata olive, cinnamon, and black pepper, with teasing citrus emerging occasionally. Warming, tarry, dry smoke finish. An old-fashioned, pungent style of Islay whisky.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 89

6 Responses to “Review: Port Ellen 29 year old”

  1. Hey John,

    It is always exciting to have the opportunity to taste a new Port Ellen. Our store bottled a cask last fall, fulfilling a 5 year dream of mine… This new Port Ellen is good, but didn’t wow me as much as some of the other official releases. There was a 27 year old a few years back, I think it was the 6th release, which I thought was particularly good. Some of the earlier releases like the 2nd and 3rd were also spectacular.

    Have you heard any rumours concerning official bottlings of Port Ellen? I have heard the same rumour with respect to the Brora 25Yr, that these may be two of the last official releases. I know some others like Signatory, Douglas Laing and others still have plenty of stock of both, but there are persistent rumours that Diageo is nearly out!

    Best Regards

    Andrew Ferguson

  2. John Hansell says:

    Andrew, I agree that, while still quite good, this Port Ellen (and the 25 Brora) was not as exceptional as some of the previous releases. As stocks get older, the whiskies are going to show their age more, and they’ll continue getting more and more expensive.

    The wise whisky drinker will look for younger, less expensive bottlings that might still be on shelves collecting dust somewhere. I have a Cadenhead’s 11 and 12 year old Port Ellen that I bought in the early 1990s for a very reasonable price waiting to be opened. They just might rock my world!

  3. Hello John,
    Nice to read your review on the Port Ellen, thanks for posting it.
    Andrew, regarding Diageo having slim stocks of Port Ellen, that’s not what I heard from a reliable source, though Diageo might want us to continue believing that. They should continue to do annual releases til up to 20 or something, maybe more! But by then maybe they’ll have more marketing ideas. And hearing Port Ellen was a real workhorse distillery, I can believe, especially with some of the independent bottlers having so much stock, the owners must too.
    Yes, sadly, the prices will continue to rise I’m sure, let’s hope the whisky doesn’t suffer for it.
    But I’d love to taste some of those younger bottlings you mention John!

  4. butephoto says:

    I agree on the cost issue – many who bought previous releases are now unable to continue doing so.

  5. Todd says:

    I tasted the PE release 8 a few weeks ago, and while I liked it, it seems to have gone past peak based on my tastings of the previous releases. I like release 5, followed by 2, 4 and 6, but they are all worth tasting. The indie bottlings provide more choice for reference and the best PEs I’ve tasted are between 16-22 years old.

    As these remaining PE stocks are likely going over the edge, can Diageo arrest the aging process in glass lined tanks for future releases to prevent further wood contact? This has been implemented successfully for Hirsch 16 bourbon and Sazerac 18 rye. This seems too sensible. Is this permissible under SWA guidelines?

  6. John Hansell says:

    Todd, I don’t see any reason why Diageo couldn’t put remaining Port Ellen stocks in stainless or glass tanks to prevent further aging. Blends are married in stainless for a time period before being bottled. Given that Port Ellen is getting older (and possibly getting past its prime), it certainly is an option. Another option is to just bottle a bunch of it now and just release it over the next few years. But that makes less sense, because you have to store it somewhere and run the risk of cork deterioration, leakage, etc.

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