Distiller: Port Ellen. Bottler:Gordon & MacPhail. Age: 15 years. ABV: 40%. Region: Islay.
Islay’s Port Ellen distillery has a long and fabled history, from its founding in 1825 to a series of innovations under owner John Ramsay: the first use of the spirit safe, hosting R&D on the continuous still by Robert Stein and Aeneas Coffey, and establishing the Scotch whisky trade with North America in 1848.
The distillery was shuttered in 1930, but was then rebuilt and reopened in 1967, starting a 16-year run of some truly glorious single malt production.
In 1983, the Port Ellen distillery shut its doors once again (though its automated maltings facility still operates). Since then, the remaining stock has been highly prized–and increases in rarity and price every year. The remaining stocks are owned by Diageo, and no one on the outside knows for sure how much is left.
Mrs. McDram’s father happened to have snapped up a few bottles back when they were still relatively accessible. He was gracious enough to share a taste of this one, a 1977 vintage, matured and released by independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail for their Connoisseur’s Choice label.
The nose brings iodine and sea spray. Palate is clean, no oil, with flavors of honey, oak, and the peat all seamlessly flowing into each other. The finish warms, but is a touch ragged.
All in all, a rare trip back in time, and a welcome one. – TM