In the world of Scotch whisky distilleries which have shuttered over time are typically known as lost or silent distilleries. In some cases later bottlings of what’s left of their still aging inventory are highly sought after for their rareness and desire to taste something no longer being produced. Spirits giant Diageo, however, believes a future can be had in bringing two of the more iconic lost whisky makers back to life, and is about to put a significant cash investment towards doing so.
Both Brora and Port Ellen, according to Diageo, were closed back in 1983. It said that for many years whisky fans from around the world have asked for them to be reopened. A decision to now sink £35 million, or a little over $46 million USD, to revive them is in the works, partly in response to this demand but also to reflect the strong growth in the single malt Scotch market and the opportunity to create new generations of whisky consumers.
Port Ellen on Islay, and Brora on the remote eastern coast of Sutherland, will both be reinstated to distill in carefully controlled quantities, replicating where possible the distillation regimes and spirit character of the original distilleries. Cask filling and traditional warehousing will also be included on the sites of both distilleries.
The distilleries will also have dedicated Brand Homes to welcome guests and it is expected they will become popular whisky tourist destinations.
“This is a truly exceptional moment in Scotch whisky. Port Ellen and Brora are names which have a uniquely powerful resonance with whisky-lovers around the world and the opportunity to bring these lost distilleries back to life is as rare and special as the spirit for which the distilleries are famous,” said Dr Nick Morgan, Diageo’s Head of Whisky Outreach, in a prepared statement. “Only a very few people will ever be able to try the original Port Ellen and Brora single malts as they become increasingly rare, so we are thrilled that we will now be able to produce new expressions of these whiskies for new generations of people to enjoy.”
The new Brora and Port Ellen distilleries will be among Diageo’s smallest distilleries, capable of producing 800,000 liters of alcohol per year. They will replicate as closely as possible the previous taste profiles of Port Ellen and Brora, with medium peated character at both sites. Subject to planning permission and regulatory consents, detailed design, construction and commissioning work, it is expected the distilleries will be in production by 2020.
Nino Kilgore-Marchetti is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Whiskey Wash, an award winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y on a global level. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert and judge he has written about the subject extensively, been interviewed in various media outlets and...