Diageo Will Reopen Two 'Lost Distilleries' That Closed in 1983
The Port Ellen and Brora distilleries will both be reopened in 2020 to create fresh batches of their now highly coveted and expensive Scotches.
Due to whiskey's long aging period and resilience in storage, it's not uncommon to see bottles hitting the market that were first distilled 20, 30 or even 40 years ago—possibly dating back to before you were born. In some rare cases, new whiskey even gets released decades after the distillery has died. That's what spirits giant Diageo has done with two brands, Port Ellen and Brora. Both distilleries were shuttered back 1983 when the Scotch market was waning, but Diegeo has continued releasing batches of these brands' reserves to increasing demand and value as stockpiles dwindle. So to rectify this problem, Diegeo is turning to the most obvious solution: reopen the distilleries.
Diegeo has announced a plan to invest over $45 million to reopen both Port Ellen on the Scottish island of Islay and Brora, located along the east coast of Scotland's Sutherland region, with production set to hopefully resume in 2020. Since 2001, both brands have been part of Diageo's Special Releases program, continuing to put out new releases despite not producing any new Scotch in over 30 years, with these rare bottles selling for thousands of dollars. Thanks to the brands' cachet and a booming single malt Scotch market overall, both distilleries will get a new lease on life to produce fresh batches of their now coveted whiskies.
"This is a truly exceptional moment in Scotch whisky," Nick Morgan, Diageo's head of whisky outreach, said in a statement. "Port Ellen and Brora are names which have a uniquely powerful resonance with whisky-lovers around the world and the opportunity to bring these lost distilleries back to life is as rare and special as the spirit for which the distilleries are famous. Only a very few people will ever be able to try the original Port Ellen and Brora single malts as they become increasingly rare, so we are thrilled that we will now be able to produce new expressions of these whiskies for new generations of people to enjoy."
Despite Morgan's use of the term "lost," these distilleries aren't exactly forgotten ruins that were rediscovered. The locations of both original distilleries still exist. The extent to which these original buildings will still be used wasn't specifically addressed, however, in a press release, Diegeo noted that the distilleries "will both be reinstated to distil in carefully controlled quantities, with a meticulous attention to detail, replicating where possible the distillation regimes and spirit character of the original distilleries. Cask filling and traditional warehousing will also be included on the sites of both distilleries."