Port Ellen distillery secures planning permission

2nd January, 2020 by Nicola Carruthers

Diageo has been given the green light to restore its silent Port Ellen distillery on Islay, and intends to recreate the original spirit and ‘alternative’ whisky styles.

Artist’s impression of the revived Port Ellen Distillery

Diageo first announced plans to invest £35 million (US$46m) in reviving its Port Ellen and Brora distilleries in October 2017. Both sites were mothballed in 1983 and are expected to be back in production by 2021.

Johnnie Walker owner Diageo submitted a detailed planning application to Argyll & Bute Council in May 2019 following community engagement and a pre-application consultation.

Port Ellen master distiller Georgie Crawford said: “We are delighted to have reached this important milestone in our journey to bring Port Ellen back into production.

“We are grateful to Argyll & Bute Council and to the local community who have engaged positively with us during the planning process. We are incredibly excited to begin the next phase of the project and to make our long-cherished dream of restoring Port Ellen distillery a reality.”

As part of the plans, the site’s pagoda-roofed kiln house will be restored and new production buildings will be created.

The distillery will use two pairs of copper pot stills and two separate distillation regimes.

The first primary regime will use two stills that replicate the original Port Ellen copper pot stills to recreate the original spirit character of the distillery.

The second will use a smaller pair of stills to produce ‘alternative’ spirit characters and new styles of whisky. Diageo says this experimental approach to distillation pays homage to John Ramsay, who owned Port Ellen in its formative years in the 1800s.

Port Ellen first opened in 1824 and was largely demolished in the 1930s before being rebuilt in the 1960s. Following its most recent closure in 1983, very few of the original buildings remain.

In addition to its investment in Port Ellen and Brora, Diageo has pledged to spend £150m (US$196m) enhancing its distillery visitor experiences in Scotland, including the building of a Johnnie Walker experience in Edinburgh, plans for which were approved in May 2019.

In October 2018, Diageo secured planning permission for its work on Brora, based on the eastern coast of Sutherland.

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