The Islay-based Port Ellen distillery closed in 1983, leaving only a few hundred barrels scattered throughout Scotland's blenders, and a few thousand bottles which now sell for upwards of £1,000.
Diageo, which bought the Port Ellen Maltings in 1987 and all of the original Port Ellen whisky stocks, announced yesterday that it will re-open the brand in 2020 with a £35m investment:
Multinational drinks company Diageo—which owns 28 malt distilleries and one grain distillery in the country—announced that it will invest £35 million (about $46.1 million) to reopen Port Ellen Distillery on Islay and Brora Distillery on the east coast of the northern Highlands. The two single malt distilleries closed in 1983, during a period of decline for the scotch industry. The process of reopening—which includes planning, design, and construction work for both distilleries—will take up to three years. Distilling is slated to begin no later than 2020.
According to Dr. Nick Morgan, Diageo’s head of whisky outreach, discussions about reopening the distilleries have happened periodically for the last 20 years. “We take a very long-term view of the scotch whisky market—you have to for planning and inventory and investment purposes,” he says. “We invested a billion pounds about five or six years ago in upgrading our production facilities, particularly to meet long-term demand that we forecasted for blended scotch whisky. Building on the back of that, we feel that the situation for scotch now is very bright…We felt this was the time to do something like this, with more of a single malt scotch whisky focus.”
While on Islay, I had the opportunity to sample an original Port Ellen dram. I'm looking forward to having another one...in 2030.
(Yikes. I'll be 70 before their whisky is ready...)