Port Ellen – Are they taking the piss?

Port ellen2

I’ll start by saying that I have no problem with the sort of supply and demand system that we live with in this day and age. I’m usually fine with it. I am no way against big business or people making honest money. I have never-ever painted an image of Che Guevara onto my naked torso and occupied…well…anything.

Sometimes, however, you just have to stop and take a breath whilst looking at the price of something before asking “ARE YOU TAKING THE ABSOLUTE PISS?”

This is exactly how I felt when I saw the price for the 12th official release of Port Ellen from Diageo. It didn’t quite shock me to my very core but it did anger me enough to sit down and write this. What is this price that could have turned a usually happy- go-lucky blogger into a seething venom fanged rage monster?


I know it’s not earth shattering money but it’s still a hefty chunk of change for most people not employed by Google or David Hasselhoff. Although, I’m not sure even the amazing pay packet could get me to work for the Hoff. He’s a strange man. But I digress…

Why am I so annoyed by this new price? Well because last year the almost exact same whisky cost £300. For those not blessed with my amazing skills of mental arithmetic that’s an increase of £300. Which makes it a 100% price increase for almost exactly the same product in the space of a year. This is what has really got my panties all tied up in a bunch. This is what has set this cat amongst the unsuspecting pigeons.

There is not really much difference between the two batches. Both releases are 32 years old and both are bottled at cask strength. The 2012 release is slightly more limited. By a whole 24 bottles. I can’t see how a difference of 24 bottles has led to such a dramatic increase in price- so what has? It can’t be costs for the distillery. Port Ellen bit the dust (or at least was pulverised into dust) in 1983 leaving only the floor maltings. Duty increases have certainly not been that high in the UK this year or I wouldn’t be able to enjoy a cold beer while I write this. So what could it be?

I feel the smart bets would be on Diageo looking at the melee that ensued after the Port Ellen release last year and responding to it accordingly. Port Ellen has become increasingly hard to come by and I personally witnessed one brother sneak in ahead of the other to purchase the last bottle from one Edinburgh retailer last year. Sneaky stuff.

This family betrayal, however harrowing it may sound, is not what would have been setting off sirens in Diageo’s secret volcano lair. With the bottles quickly landing on auction sites all over internet within hours (not weeks, not days, hours) of the Port Ellen going on sale one major thing became apparent. Not everyone that had bought a Port Ellen did so for the love of whisky. Believe it or not some people simply bought it for a love of money. Speculators. Entrepreneurs. Greedy slime swilling hogs. Whatever you want to call them they are the people that I blame for this situation.

I guess I am annoyed because it means it’s just another whisky that people who love whisky will never get to try. Even by the dram behind a bar it’ll test the strain of even the hardiest wallet. It seems like yet another whisky that will be written about and tasted by experts but the everyday whisky drinker will never have a chance to try it. Port Ellen’s price has been driven up by people buying it with the sole intention of selling it on. They never wanted to try it. Other well respected whiskies have managed to keep their prices in line. The Brora this year, a 35 year old also from a distillery that no longer exists, is £400. Still not pocket change but a good deal less expensive than the only other consistent bottling in Diageo’s yearly special releases. It simply boils down to people knowing about the demand for Port Ellen and exploiting that fact.

This is what has ruined it for everyone when it comes to pricing of Port Ellen. This is what has made me so angry and why I felt I had to write this. Sadly I don’t think there is any going back now.


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