A shell Portland would probably be $695 which is getting dangerously close (if not higher in some cases) than Alden shell. I have 5 shell shoes made by Allen Edmonds and 5 made by Alden and the Alden shell is finished a little nicer. If the price was not an issue then I would probably go with the Alden version in #8 shell which can be had for $701 at The Shoe Mart.
I hear what you are saying but have a slightly different point of view. I think the two finishes are ultimately very close to one another. I do agree out of the box that the Alden is of slightly higher finish but with some work the AE is nearly identical. I personally would never buy AE burgundy cordovan as I much prefer Alden's #8. However, AE provides me the ability to order in two different brown cordovans (something nearly impossible from Alden) and also my exact choice of welt, sole etc. Ultimately I prefer my Aldens by a very slight margin but it is very, very close.