Port Ellen



Port Ellen distillery was founded in Port Ellen on Islay in 1825 by AK. Mackay & Co. Ltd.

In 1836 it was taken over by John Ramsey and kept in his family until it was closed in 1929 by DCL / J. Dewar, having been sold to The Port Ellen Distillery Co. in 1920 and then to DCL.

It was extended in 1966 and then re-opened in 1967 and the maltings were added in 1973, only to see the distillery closed by Diageo (DCL) in 1973-4.

The Port Ellen maltings are still operated today as suppliers of malted barley to other Islay distilleries.


All photso by Whisky Emporium Photography (2013)


More great distillery information here thanks to Malt-Madness






  Port Ellen (OB)   General whisky characteristics: Grass, straw, herbs and sea-air  


Port Ellen, 'Second Annual Release' bottle No. 1141, 59.35% ABV

Typical cost of this bottle;Now  to


Glass: Spiegelau

Nose: Linseed, Scottish sea air, grass and straw

Palate: Very smooth and surprisingly sweet, but lots of burn from all that alcohol. The aftertaste is very herbal. Let's try with a little water now.....

With water: (4 drops in 2cl) The sea air and straw are enhanced on the nose. Deliciously smooth on the tongue and tingling the front and rear of the tongue simultaneously, whilst leaving the middle alone! Lovely herbal flavours whilst slightly oily and wonderfully smooth with the sweetness remaining, albeit not quite so prominent now.
3 Further drops of water: A little smokiness is starting to develop amongst that straw. For a fleeting second I had a slight taste of one of those liquorice allsorts which comprises liquorice wrapped in a coconut tyre.

Overall Impression: This is an excellent dram and one which shall return to in a few days time. Probably experimenting with a little more water as this time around, it improved both times when I added a few drops. Lovely!!!

Whisky & Chocolate: Is it possible to make the taste experience of this great Port Ellen even better? Unbelievably yes it is, with the Fleur de Sel praline by Franz as the slight saltiness merges with the herbs, straw and sea-air of this Port Ellen to create an even more intense maritime experience.



  Independent Bottlers (IB)      


D. Laing OMC, Port Ellen, 25y, 1978-2004, 61.1% Cask 655, advance sample for Alambic Classique

Typical cost of this bottle;

Photo is of the standard OMC presentation and not this Port Ellen


Nose: Slightly medicinal hay with just a touch of soft and gentle smoke.

Palate: Smooth and creamy, very soft peat with a little wood smoke and flowery hay in the background. The smoke and peat are more pronounced in the aftertaste where a hint of banana is also introduced.

Matching with food: You need a strong flavoured dish to accompany this one.

Overall Impresison: Excellent.



D. Laing OMC, Port Ellen, 26y, distilled Nov. 1979, 50%

Typical cost of this bottle; to

Photo is of the standard OMC presentation and not this Port Ellen


Nose: Herbs, salt and slight peat.

Palate: Sea, smoke and slight iodine making it just a little pungent.

Overall Impression: Very good, especially ass when nosing this one, my mind was immediately transported onto an Islay jetty on a clear Spring day.



D. Laing OMC, Port Ellen, 18y, 50%

Typical cost of this bottle;

Photo is of the standard OMC presentation and not this Port Ellen


Nose: Hay, peat and bananas dunked in strong rum.

Palate: Exactly as the nose leads one to expect. Typical Port Ellen hay and peat, but with the added pleasure of slight banana and a hint of strong rum (molasses).

With 4 drops of water: Smoother and now with the addition of extra peat.

Overall Impression: I like Port Ellen and this one is good.



Port Ellen, 1979, 28y, 53.6%

This was sent to me as a sample to try blind

Typical cost of this bottle;


Glass: Spiegelau

Colour: Light gold

Nose: Slightly peaty outdoors with countryside and distant cows grazing near a peat bog, or by a peat fire. Hints of wood.

Palate: Smooth and slightly peaty with light hay, straw and open countryside.

With 3 drops of water: A fresher slightly more aromatic nose and a little more spicy peat.

Finish: Long, even longer with water.

Overall Impression: In my blind tasting I failed to recognise this as a Port Ellen, how could I? It does have some typical PE traits and is a fine, subtle Islay.



Old Bothwell, Port Ellen, 1982, 28y, Cask 2039, 57.5%

Typical cost of this bottle;

Dram-atics Advent-urous live review


This bottling is by Old Bothwell and single cask No.2039 which is an exclusive edition for Germany.

Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Light golden yellow and just begging to be nosed and tasted.

Nose: I'm suddenly hit by another of those flashback moments; I'm about ten years old, it's the school holidays, a sunny day and I'm at the seaside with Mum. We've taken the train to Scarborough and we're now walking from the main part of town along the seafront to the more residential areas, but it's a walk of a good mile with the sea on our right and Scarborough castle high on our left. There's fresh sea-air in abundance, but also clean grasses and some hay with just  hint of peat. After a few minutes of sheer pleasure the grasses and hay grow slightly more dominant.

Oh goodness, this is a real first for me as I say "Nose: Scarborough".

Palate: Moving eventually onwards, by a good 40 years, I'm back in my dining room with a rather astonishing Port Ellen and if you thought my description of the nose was slightly unusual, then prepare youself for a little more poetic license as the palate offers a surreal combination of flavours. Basically, this whisky is akin to a peat terrine served amidst a raspberry coulis with a dressing of hay, sprinkled with rosemary, although parsley, sage and thyme were not present at this particular Scarborough Fayre!

With 4 drops of water: That tide just crashed over the wall and presented us with a face full of Scarborough's finest maritime shower. This also left the palate slightly more salty, but also with a development of herbal fruitiness alongside the peat.

A further 4 drops of water and the nose is even more 'maritime' with oodles of fresh, salty sea-air but also with a slight suggestion of dentist's surgery. The palate is now much smoother and also sweeter with lighter peat and a fruitiness which can only be matched by Cantaloupe melon dancing on the roof of the mouth, whilst the herbs and peat occupy the tongue.

Finally I give this dram a splurge of water which weakens the nose but makes the palate extremely smooth, only lightly smoky, but with lots of that sea-air and subtle fruit (cantaloupe melon), plus the faintest suggestion of butterscotch and heather blossom.

Overall Impression: Magnificent. More, more, I want more! Now!!! This is by far the best whisky I have personally tried in 2010.



W&M "Barrel Selection", Port Ellen, 1982-2011, 28y, 60%

Cask No.2033, bottle No.25 of 534

Typical cost of this bottle;

Reviewed as part of MMA 2011


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Bright (9ct) yellow gold

Nose: I'm immediately transported back to my favourite Islay ferry with light sea-air and fruity, peaty bilge pumps in the nicest possible way. More peat and wood smoke expand with time in the glass. Excellent lightly fruity peat.

Palate: Raspberries and fresh cream served in a hollowed-out peat brick and eventually joined by faint liquorice.

Finish: Long fruity peat

Overall Impression: Excellent. An exceptionally good Port Ellen and highly recommendable.



Malts of Scotland, Port Ellen, 2.1983-10.2011, 58.9%

Bourbon Hogshead, Cask No.11011, bottle No.5 of 267

Typical cost of this bottle;

Reviewed as part of MMA 2011


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Light yellow gold

Nose: Almost farmy and quite leafy to start but a light smokiness soon develops. After more time the leafiness expands to include grasses and hay which then develop a lightly perfumed character.

Palate: Very creamy mouth-feel with some light pepperiness. A suggestion of liquorice and treacle toffee all shrouded in a light smokiness.

Finish: Long and vibrant.

Overall Impression: An excellent example of Port Ellen.



Malts of Scotland, Port Ellen, 3.1982 - 1.2013, 59.5% ABV

Sherry Hogshead, Cask MoS 13006, bottle No.136 of 175

Typical cost of this bottle;


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Rich dark oak

Nose: A mild rubberiness gives way to hints of red wine, then a suggestion of smoked herring (kippers) makes this a solid and very satisfying nose.

Palate: It's immediately intense with definite suggestions of red wine and those smoky kippers. It's as though the kippers are marinated in Haut Medoc.

Finish: Long and repeating.

Overall Impression: Somehow I'm tempted to say it's more Bordeaux than Islay, but extremely enjoyable either way.


  MaltBarn, Port Ellen, 29y, 52% ABV

Bourbon cask, distilled 1983, bottled 2012, one of 86 bottles

Typical cost of this bottle;


Glass: Classic Malt

Colour: Very pale yellow

Nose: A lightly smoked fishiness (kippers again?) with lots of fruitiness, perhaps summer berries / fruits of the forest.

Palate: Very intense with everything from the nose expanding across the palate.

Finish: Medium but very intense.

Overall Impression: A very intense and warming dram, love the fruitiness.









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