Whisky milestone as Port Ellen Distillery plans approved

Innovative plans to bring one of the world’s most famous distilleries back into production have been given the green light by local authorities on the whisky island of Islay.

The iconic ‘lost’ distillery of Port Ellen will be restored through an inspirational combination of heritage and originality after plans were approved by Argyll & Bute Council planners.

As part of the plans the historic pagoda-roofed kiln house will be restored alongside the creation of new state-of-the-art production buildings.

Georgie Crawford, the master distiller leading the Port Ellen project, 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.’

The new Port Ellen stillhouse will bring together traditional and innovative approaches to distilling under one roof with two pairs of copper pot stills and two separate distillation regimes.

The primary distillation regime will carefully recreate the original spirit character of the distillery, using two stills that exactly replicate the original Port Ellen copper pot stills. 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.

This approach to distillation pays homage to John Ramsay who owned Port Ellen in its formative years and made it one of the most innovative distilleries of the 19th century. His pioneering skill and dedication helped develop many of the techniques and equipment that have since become mainstays of the Scotch whisky industry.

The buildings at Port Ellen have gone through many changes since it first opened in 1825, 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 beautiful new stillhouse created to house distillation.

In October 2017 Diageo announced a £35 million investment programme to bring back Port Ellen on Islay and Brora distillery in Sutherland, both of which closed in 1983.

Since then the company has embarked on an additional £150 million investment programme in Scotch whisky tourism – the biggest ever seen in the sector – which will create the Johnnie Walker Princes Street global flagship visitor experience in Edinburgh as well as investing in the company’s existing 12 distillery visitor centres.

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