Port Ellen 16, 1981-1998, 62.4% – Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Sometimes Tom van Engelen sends me reviews for publication on MaltFascination. Sometimes I forget. So now I have a backlog of a few that I’m trying to get through before the end of the year.

Image from Whiskybase

Young Port Ellen has become quite rare, until the long closed distillery opens again of course. But will it ever be like this again, in 16 years? Let’s go back to the 1980s, when this beauty was casked in a quite pleasantly inactive cask, by the light looks of it. 

A lot of minerals and chalk, dry pebbles beaten by long summer sun. Truly dusty, like discovering a Todd McFarlane drawn Batman comic in the attic. Smoky vanilla in the background. With water more medicinal. Quite a classic Islay whisky. After a while a whiff of grass. Good swimmer, and all about malt spirit, only the subtlest wood influence.

Neat, quite compact, a little salty … and then the hot alcohol covers it all. Very dry. Time for a few drops of water. The liquid shows a slight green haze in the glass, interesting. The taste is “darker” now, high percentage cacao chocolate. The peat dominates with elegance.

Old school peat, warm and lingering. So incredibly naked and vulnerable. Water makes it a more oily exit but leaves a farewell note that lingers for ages.

Port Ellen at this age is at a turning point, which older expressions underline indeed, on a road to a sweeter character. This is reminiscent of young and naked Ardbegs from the 1993 vintages. Worth looking out for.


Surprisingly, this is still available at Passie voor Whisky for € 999

About Tom van Engelen

I’m a writer in a variety of fields and have a soft spot for whisky, mainly malt, mainly from Scotland. In other times I enjoyed a stint as editor-in-chief of one of the first whisky magazines in the world. When not sipping a good glass I like to write some more, read, watch 007 movies or listen Bowie music. I’m engaged to Dasha, I have a sweet daughter and I live somewhere between the big rivers in the middle of The Netherlands.


About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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