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Port Ellen's 13th Release - a 2-Grand Scotch

Port Ellen promotional photo

Port Ellen has become a controversial Scotch with the most recent release from Diageo. The Port Ellen 13th release, from old stocks that Diageo acquired from the closed distillery, is a 34 year-old Scotch that is being sold for prices above $2000 a bottle. The high price is a reflection of speculation on previous releases, which initially sold for much less only to have prices jump 2 to 5 times higher on the secondary market. Diageo has apparently picked up on this trend and has priced the Scotch more appropriate to the demand for Port Ellen.

The Scotch community is divided on the release. Many of us who are true Scotch lovers and drinkers have an acute case of sticker shock and blame the collectors and investors who purchase Scotch, not to drink, but to hold and eventually trade or sell later. Is older Scotch becoming a treat for only the elite? For now, that appears to be the case.

It isn't just the collectors who are pushing up prices, but the overall popularity of Scotch as a drink of choice has jumped significantly. Because supply is not elastic for Scotch - typical "young" releases will be aged as many as 10 years - distilleries can only react to the growing demand by either raising prices or putting more of their younger Scotch on the market (minimum 3 years old). Ardbeg, for instance, has dramatically increased their output and have begun marketing blended Scotch without the age statements, as blends of old and newer Scotch. Their young Scotch is particularly good, but connoisseurs believe the blend is becoming younger and younger as the old Scotch is used up.

Oban also released an older Scotch (at 21 years) for around $400 a bottle ($300 more than their 18 year old release) - a fairly hefty price of its own. Oban 32 sold for less, and is an old and limited release which is hard to find with no hint of a followup. Now it commands prices nearer to $1000 a bottle.

It does not look like prices are artificially inflated, in spite of how much many Scotch lovers hope they are and sanity will return to the market. The 13th release will probably jump in price in within a year or so once the primary market sells out. Diageo is slowly running out of old stocks of Port Ellen so the few of us who are willing to fork up the dollars to purchase and hold a bottle will have something special. If anyone will ever dare to drink it is another question.

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