Port Ellen, Pe5 (Elements of Islay)

The fifth Port Ellen entry in the Whisky Exchange’s Elements of Islay series was released in 2011, I think. And it may have been the last of the Port Ellens released in that series—at least Whiskybase does not list a Pe6. I’ve been sitting on this sample since early 2012. I acquired this sample through a rare act of honesty on my part: I had placed an order for a Karuizawa from TWE (this was back when Karuizawas could be acquired for <$200) and due to a glitch in their systems was charged only a fraction of the price. I alerted Tim Forbes who was then doing web stuff for TWE, and who was also a member of the then-very active Whisky Whisky Whisky forums. He confirmed that I was not in fact a winner of a special lottery and, as appreciation for my letting him know, threw a few fancy samples in with the order, one of which was this one. Why it has then taken me almost 8 years to drink it, I couldn’t tell you. Anyway, being released in 2011 it is at least 28 years old (Port Ellen closed in 1983) and probably a bit older. It’s also from a sherry cask, as three of the other four Elements of Islay Pe releases had been as well. It was very well received at the time. I, of course, did not buy a bottle because I thought it was horrendously overpriced. Cut to the present where the multiplier for any Port Ellen released in 2011 is about 10x. Anyway, let’s see what it’s like.

Port Ellen, Pe5 (57.9%; Elements of Islay; refill sherry butt; from a sample from a fellow whisky geek)

Nose: Rich combination of peat and sherry. There’s a fair bit of char, some ink, some iodine but also tobacco, savoury gunpowder, graphite, orange peel. On the second sniff there’s a lot of salt coming up from behind. Softer with water: the smoke gets pushed back and some toffee pops out.

Palate: Pretty much what you would expect from the nose, except the char turns to tar. Very approachable at full strength; the texture is a bit thin. On the second sip there’s a lot of cracked pepper and a bit of spicy oak bite and the peat now dominates the sherry. Gets saltier as it sits and the richer sherry notes begin to emerge again—especially the tobacco and the orange peel; some bitter chocolate too after a while. Okay, let’s add some water. The pepper’s still here but otherwise it’s mellower here too. The chocolate turns to milky cocoa

Finish: Long. The smoke goes on and on with the salt emerging. Similar progression with time as on the palate.

Comments: This is very good indeed. It is certainly one of the best sherried Port Ellens I’ve had. Is it better than some very good big peated-sheried whiskies from extant distilleries I’ve had in recent years? I’d certainly take this Lagavulin 24 over it. But it’s not like malts of that quality are floating around freely in the market either. I can’t remember how much this cost when it was released but those who snagged bottles then must be feeling very smug indeed.

Rating: 90 points.

Thanks to Tim F. for the sample (though he probably does not remember having sent it to me; and for that matter, may not even remember me).


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