Port Ellen & Brora to be resurrected… and a Lagavulin 12yo review.

Lagavulin 12 Feature

So, this article was supposed to begin at the point below the dashes. And then I received the following press release at 9am this morning:

“Port Ellen and Brora, two of the most revered ‘lost’ distilleries in the global spirits industry, are to be brought back to life in a powerful statement of confidence in the future of Scotch whisky.

The distilleries, which have been silent since they were closed in 1983, will be brought back into production through a £35 million investment by Diageo, the world’s leading Scotch whisky company.

The new Brora and Port Ellen distilleries will be among Diageo’s smallest distilleries, capable of producing 800,000 litres of alcohol per year. They will replicate as closely as possible the previous taste profiles of Port Ellen and Brora, with medium peated character at both sites. Subject to planning permission and regulatory consents, detailed design, construction and commissioning work, it is expected the distilleries will be in production by 2020.

Dr. Nick Morgan, Head of Whisky Outreach at Diageo, said: “This is a truly exceptional moment in Scotch whisky. Port Ellen and Brora are names which have a uniquely powerful resonance with whisky-lovers around the world and the opportunity to bring these lost distilleries back to life is as rare and special as the spirit for which the distilleries are famous. Only a very few people will ever be able to try the original Port Ellen and Brora single malts as they become increasingly rare, so we are thrilled that we will now be able to produce new expressions of these whiskies for new generations of people to enjoy. Scotch whisky is Scotland’s gift to the world and the rebirth of these distilleries is a great gift to malt whisky lovers everywhere.”

Holy fuck. I’ll keep you guys posted as soon as I have more info.

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It’s that time of year once again. The annual Diageo Special Releases have been… well… released and I now have the arduous task of reviewing them all *desperately tries not to look smug*. This is the first in a series of ten (yes, ten!) articles over the following fortnight where I’ll take an in-depth look at each release and give my thoughts on the whisky.

As most of you will be aware, nine tenths of the line up were revealed back in April, with Dr. Nick Morgan, Head of Whisky Outreach at Diageo, commenting in an email to journalists/bloggers: “So highly awaited are the releases, you may have noticed that we struggle to keep them under lock and key. Special Releases has rapidly become the worst kept secret in malts due to your enthusiasm and dedication to the collection. So, in light of recent speculation, we would like to confirm the truly impeccable line-up of this year’s collection.” He thereafter went on to name all but one of this year’s collection, with the final addition, Collectivum XXVIII, a blended malt containing whisky from all 28 of Diageo’s active malt distilleries, only coming to light in August.

Diageo Special Releases 2017

First up is an old favourite and a staple of the Special Releases, Lagavulin 12yo, which has been matured entirely in refill American oak hogsheads. The order in which I’m going to enjoy work professionally through these whiskies is by ascending price, so we’ll begin with Lagavulin, and after going full circle, we’ll end up back on Islay and finish with Port Ellen. I had the fortune of visiting Lagavulin again earlier this year and that southern Islay shoreline truly is a magical place. Dramatically rugged, yet beautifully charming. Much like most Lagavulin 12 year olds I’ve tried. Here we go…

Lagavulin 12yo
Diageo Special Releases 2017
56.5% ABV
£89.95 here

Nose: Clove studded ham, sticky ribs, dark cherries, fish boxes, oily smoke, herbal peat and soot.

Palate: Mouthcoating and viscous; peat reek, salted limes, barbequed seafood, beach bonfires, charred twigs, pineapple and grapefruit.

Finish: Long, intense peat smoke with drying wood tannins.

Overall: For me, year after year, Lagavulin 12yo never fails to deliver. Some years have been slightly better than others but, by and large, you know exactly what you’re getting when you buy a bottle of this, regardless of which release it is. Big, oily, thick smoke backed up with crisp maritime notes and a touch of fruit. A very strong start. Tomorrow, we head across the island to Caol Ila. See you there.



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