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Port Ellen marks distillery reopening with 44YO whiskies

Islay producer Port Ellen has launched a set of twin 44-year-old whiskies to celebrate the return of its distillery in spring.

Port Ellen
The Gemini set will retail for £45,000 (US$56,428)

The distillery, first established in 1825, has been closed since 1983, with drinks giant Diageo investing millions into reviving the site as it prepares to resume production from mid-March.

Named Port Ellen Gemini, the release is split into a two-bottle set: Gemini Original and Gemini Remnant. Only 274 sets are available and the expressions are the oldest single malt Scotches released directly from Port Ellen.

Master blender Craig Wilson said: “Marking the return of this iconic distillery, and a new light in its future, Port Ellen Gemini is a true taste of a legend reborn – a never-before-seen release of two unique and priceless expressions of a much-revered whisky, inspired by our rarest cask.”

“Port Ellen Gemini invites whisky connoisseurs to compare and contrast a twin pair of 1978 Scotch whiskies, shared in its original form and finished expression. The finish is nothing short of historical: an extraordinary remnant cask that cradled three decades of Port Ellen spirit, now restored and revived, a worthy touch to this rare Scotch.

“It is a fitting tribute to the past and future as Port Ellen returns once again.”

The whisky was drawn from three 1978 European oak casks, and split into two expressions, which were matured in different ways.

The liquid from the Gemini Original is said to be untouched from the 1978 casks and has ‘smooth, sweet, salty, and smoky’ characteristics. On the nose, it has hints of ‘baked pear and sweet edible seaweed’, with ’spent bonfire and soft fudge’, while on the palate, ‘baked apple skins, salt and charred ashes of bonfire’ can be found.

Gemini Remnant was finished in a Port Ellen remnant cask, which the distillery said is likely to have touched some of its most historic whiskies. The cask was saved when Port Ellen shuttered and has been re-seasoned.

The finish is said to have ‘markedly increased’ the flavour profile of the whisky, with notes of ‘sea salt, smoke, dried fruit and oak’. Its profile is also described as featuring ‘dark Sherry, prunes and oak spice’ on the top, with ‘tobacco and charred-wood ash’ underneath.

Gemini Original’s ABV is 54.9% and Gemini Remnant’s sits at 53.6%. The set will be available in selected markets for an RRP of £45,000 ($US56,428).

Both whiskies are presented in 700ml crystal decanters featuring sections of each of the casks, and will be available when the distillery opens in mid-March.

Registration to acquire the highly limited release is now open through Diageo’s private client team.

Port Ellen named Alexander McDonald as distillery manager in 2022 as it built up to its return.

As part of the investment, Diageo also financed Brora’s comeback, with the distillery restarting production in May 2021 after a three-year restoration project.

Both brands are revered for producing some of the most collectable whiskies in the Scotch industry.

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