All about making whisky
Built in 1824 in the south of the Isle of Islay, Port Ellen was the site of numerous technological experiments that revolutionised the whisky industry in the 20th century. Closed between 1930 and 1969, it opened a malting centre on its site in 1973 tasked with supplying all the distilleries on the island with smoky malted barley. Again closed in 1983, Port Ellen lost its production licence in 1992 and, with it, all hope of ever producing whisky again. At the beginning of the millennium, the majority of its buildings were knocked down, leaving only the pagodas and warehouses. Though the end of the 90s and the beginning of the millennium were a prosperous time for single cask, cask strength versions from independent bottlers, this very iodine and smoky malt has become increasingly rare over the last five years.
This independent bottler is without a doubt one of the most highly acclaimed in Scotland. It stands out, not for its age (though it is the oldest independent bottler in Scotland), but for its complete mastery of cask ageing. Gordon & MacPhail is the only bottler to have its own casks - carefully chosen for the purpose - filled by the distilleries themselves, instead of simply buying the ones suggested to them by the latter. This allows it to determine, in advance and with great precision, exactly how many years a whisky will need to reach ideal maturation.
Of all the existing specialist bottling ranges, Connoisseurs Choice is without doubt the oldest. The label underwent a few changes in the 1980s. Plainer and more restrained, it became two-toned with creams and browns. When segmentation by region of production region was adopted by the whisky industry in the early 1990s, the range changed its identity again. The label now shows a map of the region of Scotland where the malt comes from. To the delight of whisky enthusiasts, the range, which is always evolving, is now bottled at 43% and 46%.