Over the course of the 20th century, however, the distillery changed hands numerous times. In 1966, Port Ellen Distillery was reopened and refurbished. Although the distillery was forced to close its doors again in 1983 as a result of slumping demand, the whisky distilled in the 17 years between its re-opening and final closure has acquired a reputation as some of the finest to have been made on Islay in that time.
Appearance: A clear amber, like antique gold in sunlight. Dense beading, suggesting rich texture.
Nose: Cautious and clean at first, with hints of dark toffee wrapped in wood smoke, then cooling oil of eucalyptus and a trace of bruised apple fruit. The wood smoke parts to reveal a savoury, meaty scent, then sweet honey, toasted cereals and a whole artist’s studio of oils. With water, it starts smoky (like vegetables on a barbecue) the underlying oiliness now punctuated by hints of lime.
Body: Light, oily, smooth.
Palate: Stunning. Caution is thrown to the winds as sweet and intense smoke races across the palate chased by fresh lemons, lemon zest and butter. This rich, fruity smoky-sweetness becomes tongue-coating, smooth dark chocolate enveloped in exquisite wood smoke. It drinks very well straight and when the attack slows, there’s yet more honey, lemon and a sprinkling of sea salt. If water is added it is smooth, lightly oily, much sweeter now and more accessible: still some salt, with a new spicy tingle.
Finish: Long, coating, intense and sustained, all pervading scented smoke, hints of mint and bergamot, then finally dense and savoury, with an aftertaste suggesting cloves.