A few days ago, as I was approaching quite a milestone for me in my whisky journey, I made a poll on Twitter asking what should be my 1000th dram. Amongst the propositions, I had this Port Ellen 1979 Signatory Vintage and a Brora 1981, also from Signatory Vintage. With more than 60 votes and until the very last seconds, it was a ‘huge’ battle between the two, that ended in… a draw. Since I wasn’t going to do blend of the two as my 1000th different whisky tried, I decided for the Port Ellen to be the 999th whisky (because it had two nines in its vintage), whilst the Brora would be the 1000th whisky I’d try (and also because my first Brora was my 500th whisky, so let’s stay consistent). So here we are, with an old bottling from a closed distillery (for now, as it should reopen next year): a Port Ellen 1979 Signatory Vintage (and from my vintage, thanks for the easy pun).
Port Ellen 1979 Signatory Vintage (1993) Review
Not much is known about the cask used to mature this whisky, but by the colour, it probably is an ex-bourbon cask. What we know, however, was its number, cask #1847. The cask was bottled in 1993, after 14 years of maturation, into 350 full-size bottles and 2,400 5cl miniatures, all filled at 43%, and unfortunately chill filtered. However, looking at its colour, we can safely guess the colour is natural. Sorry for the very low quality of the photo below, that’s all I could find.
A light white wine. The crown is made of heads quickly merging all together and falling in quick thin legs.
Well… the nose is quite lively, medium peat, with smoked meat. It feels younger than its 14 years of age. It feels feinty and spirity, when I approached the glass for the first time for a second I thought about new make, but we’re still on something more mature, it was but a quick thought. A bit of rubber, and a bowl of corn flakes cereals without milk.
After a few moments some citrusy notes appear, lemon and very light grapefruit notes. Unfortunately, there are hints of soapy notes, not overwhelming but still there.
After about twenty more minutes, hints of green apple but not much more.
Thicker mouthfeel than expected. The arrival is surprisingly sweet, then soft peat appears, with some soft spices as well. Gentle heat. Smoked chocolate, touches of citrus, a pinch of pepper and some ginger. A stick of liquorice, and those dextrose candy necklaces from the eighties.
Gently smoky and very slightly spicy and bitter, and a bit soapy as well. Something metallic on the aftertaste after two minutes.
Well, my very little experience with Port Ellen is a bit of a rollercoaster. It started on very good but not brilliant a bit more than two years ago. Then two months ago I had a magnificent one I’ll review soon, from 1979, but way older than this one. And unfortunately, this Port Ellen 1979 Signatory Vintage is a bit disappointing. It lacks complexity, it feels like the cut was a bit larger than what I should have been with its feinty notes. As I said earlier, I hesitated to have this Port Ellen for my 1000th whisky ever tried, and it arrived tied with a Brora 1981 for Signatory as well. I decided to have the Port Ellen as the 999th and the Brora as the 1000th. I don’t know yet about the Brora, but I’m happy this Port Ellen is not the 1000th. It’s now awful, far from it, it’s quite okay, but I expected more. If most Port Ellen were like this one, I’d understand why the distillery was closed. But I’m sure they are better and this one had a very inactive or knackered cask maybe. See you very soon for the Brora, and for that another 1979 Port Ellen.