Diageo brings Scottish distilleries back to life
TWO remote Scottish distilleries, whose whiskies have developed cult status after production was halted nearly 35 years ago, will reopen thanks to a major investment by their drinks giant owner Diageo.
Port Ellen, on the island of Islay, and Brora, on the remote eastern coast of Sutherland, have become two highly sought after whiskies, with production having halted more than three decades ago during a lull in the popularity of the spirit.
Now the Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff vodka maker will pump £35m into revamping the distilleries and building visitor centres at the sites.
The FTSE 100 company still needs planning permission for the work although backing has been given by David Mundell, the Secretary of State for Scotland, who praised the support for some of the country’s “most remote communities”. “These ambitious new developments will create jobs, boost tourism and produce premium products to be exported around the world,” Mr Mundell added.
David Cutter, Diageo’s president of global supply and procurement, said the distilleries should be up and running by 2020 with the first whisky available for sale in 2032 following the ageing process.
A bottle of Port Ellen 1978 can sell for £2,600 while a bottle of Brora 1974 can go for up- wards of £2,700. Mr Cutter said the company would be careful to keep production levels low, with plans to produce 800,000 litres a year of each whisky – a similar level to its Oban distillery.
Diageo said the decision to reopen the sites was in part because of lobbying by whisky fans and also because of strong growth in the Scotch market.
Scotch represents 25pc of Diageo’s net sales and was up 5pc in the year to June 30, with sales growth in all regions ex- cept Asia Pacific. According to the Scotch Whisky Association, the industry supports around 40,000 jobs, adds £5bn to the economy and is the single biggest net contributor to the UK balance of trade in goods.
Spirits, including Scotch, have undergone a renaissance in demand with younger drinkers more often seeking out products such as rum and gin in contrast to beer, which has seen global volumes decline in recent years.
Raising a glass: Islay, which is already home to the Ardbeg Scotch whisky distillery, above, will soon welcome back production of the Port Ellen brand following Diageo’s investment