October 22, 2014

Review: Port Ellen 18 Year McGibbons "Winter Distillation" - A home run just in time for the World Series

Two Things That Don't Suck

Two things that don't suck:  Douglas McGibbon's Provenance, and Port Ellen.  Provenance is a line of independent single malt bottlings.  In other words, the geniuses at Douglas McGibbon & Company hand pick casks of scotch (and these dudes have one of the best barrel collections in the world), age them in their vast warehouses, and release them just at the right time.  If you love a particular distillery and Provenance offers a single cask release, you should buy it.  You can bet it won't suck.

Another thing that rarely sucks is Port Ellen.  If you're a loyal reader, you know that PE is like the holy grail for peat heads.  It was one of the most prized distilleries in Islay until it was closed down in 1983.  They made some magic there with a massive peaty whiskey that was so smooth it makes a baby's butt feel like sandpaper.  We're faithful that Lagavulin 16 Year is the best scotch you can buy on the shelf today, but this stuff is like Lagavulin's elder statesman, older brother, or cool uncle.  It's the shit.

Needless To Say...

Needless to say when we saw two favorite things come together in this McGibbon's Provenance bottling of Port Ellen 1982, we were pretty pumped up.  We'd never had a Port Ellen this YOUNG. Since it's been thirty-one years since the distillery closed, you usually see older bottlings these days at twenty-five years and up.  With these peaty Islay scotches, sometimes younger is better because the glorious fiery smoke tends to fade with age.  At a barely legal eighteen years old, would this young beast show some of that coveted fire?  On top of that, take one look at the color and you know that it's got to be a sherry cask.  Sherry-cask, peated Islay scotch is our all time favorite type of malt. So on paper all the ingredients pointed to this being a hell of a dram. This bottle is dubbed the "Winter Distillation" and it was distilled and bottled in the winter months.  Does that make any difference?  We have no idea.  But it sounds really cool.

Tasting Notes

Nose:  It's like campfire stones bubbling with melted marshmallows, sticky candy orange slices, tree bark, and spicy lemongrass.  Pink rock salt, a little salty ocean brine, more sweet: honey, molasses, bitter cherries, pears, and rose water.

Palate:  The balance is just amazing.  With sherry and sweetness and nice round edges, but adding an amazing layer of smoke and warmth underneath.  It's got that "Ragout Factor" as in "It's In There!"  Everything you're looking for: the old leather, the pipe tobacco, the sweet sticky raisins and plums, the big big smoke, the amazing spirit warmth.  It's got it all.

Finish:  Wonderful mid-length finish where the smoke, chocolates, and fruits just meld together in the mouth and float on top of a nice spirit warmth with absolutely zero alcohol burn whatsoever.  The flavors linger until you're left with a little beautiful pipe smoke, sweet citrus fruits, and warm oak.


We've gotten away from the grades lately, but holy crap this one is an "A+".  It's a "desert island" dram without a doubt, just a total gem.  We're going to have to savor this bottle for as long as we can before letting that last drop go.  Because of course we weren't smart enough to buy two...



  1. Can you please tell me where you found the awesome decanter and glasses in the above picture.


    1. Hi David,

      Not sure if they have the exact same ones (those were on our wedding registry six years ago), but these are close: