Revival of iconic Port Ellen distillery gathers pace as plans are formally submitted

The revival of one of Scotland’s most famous lost whisky distilleries is gathering pace after it was announced plans for the project have been formally submitted to local authorities.

Published 7th May 2019
Updated 7 th May 2019

The detailed planning application setting out proposals that will see iconic Islay distillery Port Ellen reopened more than 35 years after it was closed have been filed with Argyll & Bute Council, following community engagement and pre-application consultation with key stakeholders.

The distillery’s buildings, which are located on the south coast of the island, have gone through many changes since it first opened in 1824, with the distillery closing and largely being demolished in the 1930s, before being rebuilt in the 1960s.
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 as integral parts of the revived distillery, with a new stillhouse created to house distillation.

Subject to planning approval, Port Ellen will be brought back into production in a combination of modern and heritage buildings housing both traditional and innovative approaches to distilling.

Owners Diageo, who announced the £35 million project to rebuild both of the lost Port Ellen and Brora production sites in October 2017, say this will be achieved through two pairs of copper pot stills and two separate distillation regimes.

The primary distillation regime, using two stills that exactly replicate the original Port Ellen copper pot stills, will carefully recreate the original spirit character of the distillery that made its single malt Scotch whisky so highly sought after.

Alongside this will be a second, smaller pair of stills that will produce alternative spirit characters, allowing the Port Ellen whisky makers the freedom to experiment with new whisky styles.

The team behind the project say these experimental stills pay homage to John Ramsay, who owned Port Ellen in its formative years and who made it one of the most innovative distilleries of the 19th century, pioneering many of the techniques and equipment that would become mainstays of the Scotch whisky industry.

Georgie Crawford, the master distiller leading the Port Ellen project, said: “This is another hugely significant milestone on our journey to bring Port Ellen Distillery back to life.

"This is no ordinary distillery project, we are bringing a true whisky legend back to life and we believe our plans do justice to the iconic status of Port Ellen and will capture the imagination of whisky fans from all over the world.”

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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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