Glasgow & West Scotland

'Lost' Scotch whiskies to be revived

Whisky from the island of Islay, including a 1970 bottle from the “silent” distillery of Port Ellen Image copyright Whisky Highland
Image caption Whisky from the island of Islay, including a 1970 bottle from the distillery of Port Ellen

The spirits of two "lost" Scotch whisky distilleries are to be re-incarnated with a major investment in production.

Distilling giant Diageo is to invest £35m in malt whisky facilities in Brora, Sutherland, and Port Ellen on Islay.

The intention is to tap into whisky experts' enthusiasm for single malts made until 34 years ago.

Bottlings from before 1983 - when both distilleries closed - command high prices from collectors.

The Brora site is adjacent to the Clynelish distillery, and the Port Ellen Distillery is close to Diageo's malting plant on the island, and to Lagavulin.

At the time of the closures, the industry was over-producing and single malts were yet to have an impact.

Poor management is now attributed with the failure to sustain and grow markets.

Diageo said it would seek to replicate, where possible, the distillation regimes and spirit character of the original distilleries.

They will have capacity of about 800,000 litres of alcohol per year - less than half the usual scale for malt production, and less a tenth of the biggest malt distilleries.

Cask filling and traditional warehousing will also be included on the sites of both distilleries, as well as a visitor centre. Production is scheduled to start in 2020.

Diageo, which has two-fifths of the Scotch whisky market, said it was responding to calls from whisky fans around the world to re-open Brora and Port Ellen.

There has also been strong demand for single malt whiskies, while blended whiskies have struggled in recent years to hold their sales figures.

'Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity'

In April, Diageo released its annual rare bottlings, with examples from both the distilleries being re-opened. Three thousand bottles of 34-year old Brora malt, distilled in 1982, were put on the market, for £1,450.

As many bottles of 37-year old Port Ellen, distilled in 1979, were being sold for £2,625 each. Both are 51% alcohol by volume.

David Cutter, president of global supply and procurement at Diageo, said: "This is no ordinary Scotch whisky distillery investment. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring those iconic distilleries back to life."

Cristina Diezhandino, Diageo's global scotch category director, said: "Brora and Port Ellen are rightly revered around the world for their rarity and exceptional quality.

"Everything we do with these distilleries and brands will remain true to these values."

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