Demand for Port Ellen whisky soars 30 years after distillery closure

It last produced whisky more than 30 years ago, but bottles from one of Scotland’s most famous ‘silent’ distilleries continue to be highly-prized by collectors and aficionados of the drink.

Published 11th Feb 2016
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

Port Ellen distillery, on Islay in the Inner Hebrides, closed in 1983. Now island residents are being encouraged to rummage through their cupboards or attics to see if they have any bottles of the prized spirit to cash in.

A 1983 bottle of Port Ellen single Islay malt
A 1983 bottle of Port Ellen single Islay malt
Valuation and brokerage firm Rare Whisky 101 (RW101) revealed this week that Port Ellen “significantly outperformed” many other well established asset classes last year, and was Scotch’s most significant value gainer in 2015 - up 23.15 per cent.

A total of some 320 bottles from the distillery were sold at auction in the first half of 2015, with the most expensive bottle attracting a winning bid of £8200.

David Robertson, co-founder of Rare Whisky 101, said: “Whisky from Scotland’s silent distilleries is undoubtedly in high demand at the moment.

“However, while many of these rare bottles are now being bought or sold for investment, collection, or purely just for drinking, there are still a huge number of bottles from these silent distilleries just gathering dust, with the owners unaware of the whisky’s value.

“We’re also confident that many of these bottles are most likely located in and around the communities from where silent distilleries were based.

“We’d urge anyone who has got any old bottles from the Port Ellen distillery to get in touch with us and seek a valuation.

“They could be in for a very pleasant surprise.”

Port Ellen was established as a malt mill in 1825, and then developed as a distillery under John Ramsay from 1833 to 1892.

The warehouses he built still stand and are now listed buildings. The distillery was acquired by the Distillers Company in 1925 and was rebuilt in 1967. It continued in production throughout the 1970s and was closed in 1983.

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The distillery houses a malting which continues to supply all Islay’s remaining operational distilleries, including the famous Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Bowmore.


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Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.
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