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Distillery in Focus:          Port Ellen
Region: Islay
Name: Port Ellen
Status: Demolished (partially)
Website: n.a.
Telephone: n.a.
E-Mail: n.a.
Address: Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, PA42 7AH Latitude 55°38'00.2" N Longitude 6°11'4-84" W
Visitor centre: No
Owner: Diageo
Established in 1825
Stills: 2 wash and 2 spirit stills
Casks used for maturation: Bourbon (80%) and sherry (20%)
Contribute(d) to the following blends: King of Scot, Big Peat, Johnnie Walker King George V.

 

Regular Bottling:

None

Other bottlings:

Port Ellen 21 YO Port Ellen maltings, Port Ellen 1978 (20 and 22 YO Rare Malts), Port Ellen 1981 Single Cask for Feis Ile 2008 and Port Ellen Annual release (since 2000).

For the tasted whiskies, click here


From left to right: Port Ellen 21 YO Port Ellen maltings, Port Ellen 20 YO Rare Malts, Port Ellen 1981 Single Cask for Feis Ile 2008, Port Ellen 1979 10th Annual Release.

 

History of the Port Ellen distillery

 

The distillery of Port Ellen was built in 1824-25 by Alexander Kerr Mackay with the support of the Laird Walter Campbell, on the site of a mill. In 1824 the official test of the spirit safe (i.e., to check if it did not affect the quality of the spirit) was made at Port Ellen and around that same time, experiments with continuous distillation ("Patent" or "Coffey" still) were made by Robert Stein and Aenas Coffey. Alexander Kerr Makay bankrupted within months of starting up and 3 relatives managed the distillery successively. In 1832, John Ramsay and his cousins John and Thomas Morrison took over the distillery. In 1842, the stocks of whisky were of 7399 gallons (circa 33700 L). Much of the success was due to direct export with North America. In 1848, Port Ellen warehouse n°1 was reputed as being the first duty free whisky warehouse in United Kingdom. The distillery considerably expanded during the 1860s under the ownership of John Ramsay until his death in 1892. The distillery was then operated by his wife, Mrs Ramsay until her death in 1906 when the estate passed to her son, Captain Iain Ramsay. The business struggle during the World War 1 and Captain Ramsay sold the assets and property to the Port Ellen Distillery Co. Ltd in 1920, and on liquidation of that company the assets were transferred to the company set up by John Dewar & Sons Ltd and W.P. Lowrie and Company Ltd and Co, The company merged with The Distillers Company Limited (DCL) in 1925. The distillery closed during the 1930 depression (in 1929) and was transferred to the DCL's subsidiary: Scottish Malt Distillers Ltd. At that time, there was enough whisky in the warehouse to last for 40 years. The distillery was then used for 36 years as a maltings and warehouse, before resuming production. Rebuilding started in 1966 and was completed on April 1, 1967 at a cost of £400,000. It included renewal of the barley intake and dressing plant, a new steeping vessel for then barn N°2, and reconstruction of the kiln N°2. Malt storage was refurbished, the mill room rebuilt, a new mash tun and receiver were installed and the stills heated by direct fire were increased from 2 to 4 and fitted with temperature and fill height sensors. In 1970, the stills were converted to steam heating and the boiler replaced. The maltings were finally closed in 1973 when the new maltings was opened alongside the site. The distillery closed in 1983 and the still house, along other buildings was demolished 20 years later and license cancelled in 1992. The phenolic level of the barley used at Port Ellen was between 35 ppm (A. Jefford, Maltings specifications?) and 40-60 ppm (U. Buxrud, floor maltings?).

 

 

The racking and reducing vat of the Port Ellen distillery as well as the last cask (n°839) filled.
The two remainning kilns of the distillery

 

Source: The Making of Scotch whisky by John R. Hume & Michael S. Moss,The Scotch whisky industry record by H. Charles Craig, The Scotch Whisky Distilleries by Misako Udo, Rare Malts, Facts, Figures and Taste by Ulf Buxrud, Port Ellen, Distillery and Maltings, John A. Thomson, Peat, Smoke and Spirit, Andrew Jefford and Scotch and Water, Neil Wilson.
Patrick Brossard © 15 Jan 2011.

Tasted whiskies (60):

Official/original bottlings (OB)  
Age  
   
Vintages  
Port Ellen 1978 Rare Malts, 20 YO, OB, 60.9%, Rating: 18/20
Port Ellen, 2nd Annual Release 1978, 24 YO, OB, 59.4% Rating: 16/20
Port Ellen, 4th Annual Release 1978, 25 YO, OB, 56.2% Rating: 15/20
Port Ellen 6th Annual Release1978, 27 YO, OB, 54.2% Rating: 17/20
Port Ellen 8th Annual Relase 1978,  29 YO, OB, 55,3%, Rating: 14/20
Port Ellen 10th Annual Release1978, 31 YO, OB, 54.6% Rating: 19/20
Port Ellen 7th Annual Release 1979, 28 YO, OB, 53.8% Rating: 16/20
Port Ellen 9th Annual Release 1979, 30 YO, OB, 57.7%, Rating: 18/20
Port Ellen 11th Annual Release1979 , 32 YO,OB, 53.9%. Rating: 18/20
Port Ellen 12th Annual Release 1979, 32 YO, OB, 52.5% Rating: 17/20
Port Ellen 13th Annual Release, 34 YO, OB, 55.0%, B: 2013 Rating: 17/20
   
No Age Specified (NAS)  

 

Independent bottlings (IB)  
   
Accorn  
Port Ellen 1982, 24 YO, Acorn, 55.6%, B: 2007. Rating: 17/20
   
Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR)  
Port Ellen 1982, 24 YO, BBR, 46%, B: 2007, c. 2469 Rating: 10/20
Port Ellen 1982, 26 YO, BBR, 46%, B: 2008. cask 2030/35 Rating: 12/20
   
Blackadder  
Port Ellen 1979, 26 YO, Blackadder, 56.9%, cask 497 Rating: 17/20
   
Bladnoch Forum bottling  
Port Ellen 1982, 24 YO, Bladnoch, 60.4%, B: 2006, c. 2461, 644 b. Rating. 16/20
   
Bottlers, The  
Port Ellen 1981, 19 YO, The Bottlers, 60.4%, B: 2000. c.1549. Rating: 17/20
   
Chieftains  
Port Ellen 1982, 30 YO, Chieftains, 50.1%, B:2012, c. 1518, 308 b. Rating: 15/20
   
Dewar Rattray  
Port Ellen 1982 Sherry, 24 YO, D. Rattray, 58.2%, c.2463, 467 b. Rating: 16/20
   
Douglas Laing  
Port Ellen Platinum 1977, 35 YO, D. Laing, 50.4%, B: 2012, 199 b. Rating: 13/20
Port Ellen 1978 for Alambic Classic OMC, 57.4%, D. Laing, B: 2004 Rating: 16/20
Port Ellen 1978 Old Malt Cask, 24 YO, D.s Laing, 50%, B: 2002, 474 b. Rating: 17/20
Port Ellen 1978 Sherry Platinum, 27 YO, 54.8%, D. Laing Rating: 15/20
Port Ellen 1978 Platinum, 30 YO, 54.2%, D. Laing, B: 2008, 423 b. Rating: 18/20
Port Ellen 1979 OMC, 21 YO, D. Laing, 50% Rating: 17/20
Port Ellen 1979 sherry finish OMC, D. Laing, 50%, B: 2005, 425 b. Rating: 16/20
Port Ellen 1979 OMC, 27 YO, D. Laing, 50%, B: 2007, 589 b., Ref 3887 Rating: 14/20
Port Ellen 1982 OMC, D. Laing, 50%, B: 2008, c 4112, 589 b Rating: 15/20 
Port Ellen Sherry 1982 OMC, 18 YO, D. Laing, 50% Rating: 13/20
Port Ellen 1982 Sherry for Alambique Classique OMC, 19 YO, D. Laing, 56%, B: 2001 Rating: 17/20
Port Ellen 1982 Sherry OMC, 20 YO, D. Laing, 50%, B: 2002 Rating: 16/20
Port Ellen 1982 OMC, 26 YO, D. Laing, 50%, B: 2009. Ref 5157, 235 b. Rating: 16/20
Port Ellen Old Particular 1982, 31 YO, D. Laing, 51.5%, B: 2013, Ref DL9964 Rating: 14/20
   
Dun Eideann  
Port Ellen 1976, 43%, Dun Eideann, B: 1998 Rating: 18/20
Port Ellen 1979, 16 YO, Dun Eideann, 43%, B: 1995, c. 590 Rating: 12/20
Port Ellen 1979, 16 YO, Dun Eideann, 56.7%, B: 1995, c. 306. Rating: 13/20
   
Gordon & MacPhail  
Port Ellen 1969 for Intertrade, 15 YO, G&M, 64.7%, B: 1985. Rating: 18/20
Port Ellen 1971, Gordon & MacPhail, 40%, B: 1998 Rating: 17/20
Port Ellen 1974, Gordon & MacPhail, 40%, B: 1980s Rating: 18/20
Port Ellen 1982, 25 YO, Gordon & MacPhail, 40%, B: 2007 Rating: 15/20
   
Intertrade  
Port Ellen 1974, 14 YO, Intertrade, 64.3%, B:1988 Rating: 17/20
   
James MacArthur  
Port Ellen 12 YO, James MacArthur, 62.7%, B: 1980s Rating: 19/20
   
M&H  
Port Ellen 1979 Whisky Live Belgium, M&H, B:2006, 150 b. Rating: 13/20
   
Murray McDavid  
Port Ellen 1982 Château Yquem finish Mission, 27 YO, MMD, 48.6%, B: 2010. Rating: 17/20
   
Old Bothwell  
Port Ellen 1979, 27 YO, Old Bothwell, 54%, Cask 7094 Rating: 18/20
Port Ellen 1982, 26 YO, Old Bothwell, 52%, sherry cask 2729 Rating: 17/20
   
Part des Anges, la (PDA)  
Port Ellen 1982 Sherry, 24 YO, PDA, B: 2007, 58.7%, c. 359 Rating: 18/20
   
Signatory  
Port Ellen 1974, 30 YO, Signatory, 58.5%, B: 2005, c.6756, 266 b. Rating: 18/20
Port Ellen 1975, 24 YO, Signatory, 43%, B: 1999, c.1769 Rating: 17/20
Port Ellen 1978, 23 YO, Signatory, 59%, c. 5266 Rating: 16/20
Port Ellen 1979 Sherry, 23 YO, Signatory, 56.3%, c. 6774 Rating: 18/20
Port Ellen 1982 for LMDW, 25 YO, Signatory, 58%, c. 07/258, 288 b. Rating: 17/20
Port Ellen 1982, 25 YO, Signatory, 60.5% B: 2007 c.645 486 b Rating: 17/20
Port Ellen 1982, 26 YO, Signatory, 49.4%, B: 2008, c. 1682 Rating: 17/20
Port Ellen 1982 Collector’s edition, 3rd release for LMDW, 27 YO, Signatory, 58.6%, B: 2009, c. 1523, 229 b. Rating: 17/20
Port Ellen 1983, 27 YO, Signatory, 59.0%, B: 2010, c. 517, 608 b Rating: 15/20
   
The Whisky Exchange (TWE) & Speciality drinks.  
Port Ellen Pe5, Elements of Islay, 57.9%. B: 2012 Rating: 16/20
Port Ellen 1979 for The Whisky show, 30 YO, TWE, 54.1%, B: 2009, 60 b. Rating: 16/20
Port Ellen 1982 Royal Wedding, The Whisky Exchange, 53.0%, B:2011, c.2290. Rating: 18/20
Port Ellen 1983 The Whisky Show, TWE, 51.1%, B: 2011. 60 b. Rating: 19/20
   

The Whisky Fair

 
Port Ellen 198, 25 YO, The Whiskyfair, B: 2007, 53.6%, 509 bottles Rating: 09/20
   
Wilson & Morgan  
Port Ellen 1982, 28 YO, Wilson & Morgan, 60%, B: 2011. c. 2033 Rating: 16/20