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Port Ellen appoints distillery manager

Islay distillery Port Ellen has named Alexander McDonald as its first distillery manager in nearly 40 years.

The distillery, which closed in 1983, was revived following Diageo’s £35 million (US$46m) investment  to bring Port Ellen and Brora back into production.

Argyll native McDonald was born and raised in Lochgilphead.

The Islay resident studied at the Institute of Brewing & Distilling before getting his start in the whisky industry at Kilchoman Distillery. He also worked as a distiller at Islay distilleries Caol Ila and Lagavulin.

McDonald is a volunteer in the local fire service when not working for Diageo.

Laura Beadell, Diageo’s senior manager on Islay, said: “In his relatively short time in the industry Alexander has established himself as a highly skilled operator and a committed leader.

“He is passionate about Islay and Scotch whisky, and he will make an exceptional manager of Port Ellen.”

For the past year, McDonald has led the Port Ellen restoration project, overseeing the construction work that will eventually bring the distillery back into production next year.

McDonald added: “This is an incredibly exciting time for everyone at Port Ellen and I look forward to leading the team as we prepare for the historic moment when spirit flows through the stills once again.”

The distillery will be brought back into production in a combination of modern and heritage buildings, which will feature two pairs of copper pot stills and two separate distillation regimes.

One pair of stills will replicate the original Port Ellen spirit character, while a second, smaller pair of stills will produce alternative spirit characters to allow for experimentation.

Following its most recent closure in 1983 very few of the original buildings remain. The original kiln building with its classic pagoda roofs and the traditional sea-front warehouses will be restored, with a new stillhouse created to house distillation.

Sutherland-based Brora restarted production in May 2021 after a three-year restoration project.

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