Review #68: Golden Cask Port Ellen

This starts a series of whisky reviews we started while we were in Tokyo and Osaka, which have some of the most phenomenal scotch bars we have ever encountered. The bars are typically one-man shows that are a product of a passion for scotch rather than ambitions of striking it rich. We started out at Campbelltoun Loch, a cramped basement room with more seating room for the scotch than the imbibers. Full review of the bar forthcoming.

Out of sheer overwhelm by the dizzying array of scotch laid out in front of me, I did the douchebag thing and started out by asking if he had any Port Elllen. He had two. The costs were immensely reasonable, with one being 30 USD and the other around 60 USD for a half shot. I chose the first, thinking perhaps that I would get it out of my system and that Port Ellen was likely simply overhyped. I am actually sad to report that I enjoyed it immensely. I would have much rather have concluded that it was all hype, so that I don’t feel tempted to fork over some serious coin for a bottle. But alas. It was damn good.

  • Score - 9/10

Tasting Notes

Nose: Immediate and powerful hit of golden honey. Apricots and leather. Strong vanilla undertones. Fresh hay and sunlight.

Palate: Liquid gold. Creme brulee. Ripe pears, some hint of pepper and vindaloo heat that underscores the sweetness. The taste of gunpowder on end. And more ripe nectarines and stonefruit.

Tangerine sorbet and pineapple lingers on the palate forever. This finish is LONG. 


Overall: 9/10. Superb. The hype is real.

Tldr;: Golden stonefruits rolled in ash

Bought for: $30/half shot at Campelltoun Loch in Tokyo

Quick overview of our scoring system

Additional Information

  • Mashbill: Peated barley
  • Age: 27 years (first filled in 1979 and bottled in 2006)
  • 280 bottles
  • Cask: Not stated but likely bourbon
  • ABV: 53%

Fun Facts About Port Ellen:

  • Closed in the slump of 1983 (people that I have talked to advise usually getting a bottle that predates the closing by a few years). Whisky made between its re-opening 1966-1967 and its closing are considered some of the finest to have been made on Islay – and it is considered the best of the “lost distilleries”
  • 80% of its scotch was made with bourbon barrels and 20% with sherry
  • Diageo (now owner) plans to re-open the distillery by 2021. Until recently, Diageo had also been releasing annual bottlings of Port Ellen.

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