Legendary Port Ellen Goes Under the Hammer
Every auctioneer has their dream bottles that they’d just kill to find for auction. Every so often one such bottle shows up here at Whisky Online Auctions, this time it’s one we’ve been after for a long time: the Port Ellen 12-year-old bottled for the Queen’s visit to the distillery in August 1980.
There’s so much that is special about this bottling, it was the first and only bottling – official or independent – of Port Ellen released during the distillery’s short second lifespan between 1967-1983. There were very few bottles ever created, just enough to present to the Queen, some SMD manager’s and members of the local council who were present at the occasion.
It has always been a desirable bottle but last year its legend went up another level thanks to a rather crazy whisky tour in February 2015, which I helped organise, where one of these bottles was opened. The bottle was opened in the old Malt Mill at Lagavulin Distillery and tasted by everyone on the tour and various members of staff. It became – and remains – the highest ever scoring whisky on Whiskyfun.com with an immense score of 99/100. Having been fortunate enough to taste it on two separate occasions now, I can confirm that the whisky is indeed truly remarkable and quite breathtaking.
The liquid itself is unique as well as it is the only known bottled example of Port Ellen from its first year of production in 1967. The whisky is a vatting of spirit from two refill hogsheads. It was selected and drawn at the time by legendary warehouseman Iain ‘Pinky’ McArthur who confirms that it was from 1967. The strength remains unknown, but from my conversations with Iain he recalls that it was bottled at cask strength, without dilution. Having tasted it, the whisky is certainly well above the usual 40-43% range.
This particular example we have in our February auction is in wonderful condition. The level of the whisky is excellent, virtually unmoved from its original filling level and it also retains its original box and stopper. The bottle comes from an ex-SMD staff member who was present for the Queen’s visit and has kept the bottle ever since.
This really is a special bottling for us and a rare opportunity to acquire this whisky at auction. This bottling is now no longer available from any retailer and is exceedingly difficult to obtain – it could be a long time before another one of this provenance and quality appears on the market again.