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Port Ellen distillery back in business after 40 years

The once silent Port Ellen is silent no more after officially reopening its doors for the first time in 40 years today (19 March).

New life: the once mothballed distillery is officially open for business on Islay

Parent company Diageo has pumped £185 million (US$235m) into the restoration of the Islay-based distillery, as well as restoring Brora, and investing in the group’s Scotch whisky visitor experiences.

Ewan Andrew, Diageo president of global supply chain and procurement, and chief sustainability officer, officially announced the opening during a ceremony at the distillery.

He said: “This is a landmark moment for Diageo and for Scotch whisky. Port Ellen is rooted in the land and the people of Islay, yet it is a name that resonates around the world as a watchword for quality single malt Scotch whisky.

“Port Ellen has a proud heritage of leading innovation and experimentation and we have been true to that legacy in the reborn Port Ellen, creating a distillery grounded in tradition but prepared to be a trailblazing new light in the firmament of the Scotch whisky universe.”

Inside the new still house

The lights are on: the Islay distillery’s new still house

The new distillery has an unobstructed line of sight through the glass still house, overlooking the Islay coastline, across the bay to the Carraig Fhada lighthouse.

Inside the still house sit two sets of copper pot stills. The first pair – The Phoenix Stills – are exact replicas of the original Port Ellen stills. They will distil the smoky-style spirit the brand was known for.

The second pair, called The Experimental Stills, will explore ‘levels of precision’ in distillation ‘never before seen’ in Scotch.

The Experimental Stills are linked to a 10-part spirit safe, compared with the standard three-part spirit safes often used by distilleries.

Furthermore, Port Ellen has a dedicated on-site laboratory and a full-time laboratory technician, who will analyse and catalogue the new experimental whiskies that emerge.

Aimée Morrison, Port Ellen master blender, added: “Port Ellen will be defined as a distillery that will push boundaries, with our on-site laboratory giving us the opportunity to delve into scientific research, offering us a deeper look into this Islay malt.

“We will better understand how the nuanced flavours from cask-to-cask shine in different ways, with the rolling smoke weaving its way through the heart of Port Ellen.

“Collectively we will endeavour to maintain the undeniable quality of Port Ellen, create whiskies for the future and take the amazing opportunity to learn as much as we can about the enigma of smoke.”

The recently unveiled Port Ellen Gemini, comprising two 44-year-old Scotch whiskies, bottled to mark the distillery’s reopening, is now available to buy.

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