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WhiskyFun Legends: Port Ellen 1969 15 Year Old Celtic Label

Port Ellen 1969 15 Year Old Celtic Label for Intertrade

The distillery featured in WhiskyFun Legends this week is the subject of one of the most anticipated distillery reopenings in history: Port Ellen. 

The bottle in question is the Port Ellen 1969 15 Year Old Celtic Label Gordon & Macphail For Intertrade

Don’t forget to read the previous installments of WhiskyFun Legends here.

The Port Ellen 1969 15 Year Old Celtic Label Gordon & Macphail For Intertrade 

Port Ellen Distillery was founded in 1825 by Alexander Mackay on Islay. The distillery operated continuously for 105 years until it became part of the DCL stable, and subsequently mothballed, in 1930. 

1967 saw the reopening of Port Ellen before its doors were closed, seemingly for good, in 1983 during the whisky loch. 

This Port Ellen 1969 15 Year Old Celtic Label Gordon & Macphail was bottled at 64.7% ABV for the Italian importers, Intertrade, in 1985, just two years after the closure of Port Ellen. 

The bottling was part of the Celtic Label series, which was an Italian exclusive, making them both scarce and sought-after in the UK secondary market. Only six bottles from the entire Celtic Label series have ever been brought to auction in the UK. 

The label of the bottle displays Port Ellen’s name and the age of the whisky in Celtic-style script. Other than that, the bottle is very unassuming. Inside, however, is Port Ellen whisky from the short 16-year period of activity prior to the distillery’s untimely closure. 

Port Ellen was only officially bottled once as a single malt in its lifetime, and fans of the distillery have had to sustain themselves mostly on Diageo’s Annual Releases, as well as some other independent bottlings. As such, Single malt Port Ellen from the 1960s is extremely rare. An Italian exclusive from Intertrade? Even rarer. 

Serge Valentin of WhiskyFun was given the opportunity to try this exceptionally rare whisky in August 2007, it was hardly an opportunity he could turn down. 

Serge Valentin’s Tasting Notes On The Port Ellen 1969 15 Year Old Celtic Label Gordon & Macphail For Intertrade

Serge Valentin had the chance to try the Port Ellen 1969 for Intertrade in 2007, and was immediately taken by this single malt: 

A rather young Port Ellen from the very first years since last reopening, and at very high strength! Let’s fasten our seatbelts… 

Colour: pale gold. 

Nose: superb notes of roasted coffee beans when holding my glass at a good 10cm away from my nose as well as newly cut apples and fresh almonds but let’s not tempt fate and add a little water… Oh yes, it’s superb. All on coal, peat, metal polish, tar (not a very bold one, that is), mint, camphor… Exceptional. 

Mouth (neat): hardly drinkable at full strength but the few ‘pearls’ I took into my mouth revealed fantastic notes of kumquats and pu-erh tea as well as, again, marzipan. With water: censored by the Anti-maltoporn police. Let’s just add ‘lots of salt at the long finish’ and ‘absolutely stellar’. Ah, if only G&M had not diluted whole stashes of 1969 or 1970 PE’s for their CC series (and consorts) at the time… But ‘other times, other realities’ I guess. 96 points.” – Serge Valentin, WhiskyFun.com, 2007 

The Price of the Port Ellen 1969 15 Year Old Celtic Label Gordon & Macphail For Intertrade At Auction 

As previously mentioned, the Celtic Label bottlings have only made their way into the UK secondary market a handful of times. The Port Ellen, more specifically has only been sold four times. Most recently it sold for £8,988 at Whisky Auctioneer in November 2023. Before this, it sold in October 2023, January 2021, and March 2019 for between £5,400 and £12,500. 

The Reopening of Port Ellen

Port Ellen is set to reopen in 2024.

In 2017, Diageo announced a £35 million plan to restore both the Brora and Port Ellen distilleries, much to the delight of the distilleries’ cult followings. The plans were approved in early 2020

Brora reopened in 2021 to much fanfare and released the Brora Triptych in celebration. 

Port Ellen was scheduled to reopen the same year. However, there have been numerous delays and, as of mid-January 2024, we are still waiting for news of Port Ellen’s resurrection. 

With the distillery’s dedicated following combined with almost 7 years of waiting, we expect Port Ellen’s reopening to be a hugely significant event. This cult whisky that we lost in the loch will (hopefully) be reborn by the end of 2024.  

Buy Port Ellen Whisky 

With Port Ellen’s revival on the horizon, now is the perfect time to beat the hype and purchase some Port Ellen whiskies for your collection. We have a diverse selection of Port Ellen bottlings on our shop, including the Port Ellen 2nd Annual Release, a 1982 28 Year Old from Wilson & Morgan, and a Signatory Vintage 17 Year Old

Browse our selection of Port Ellen on the shop.

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