Despite having closed in 1983, Port Ellen is still once of Islay’s best-known distilleries. Relatively unknown while in operation, its reputation since closing has blossomed, and the value of bottles of whisky from the distillery has exploded, becoming some of the most expensive whiskies in the world.
Founded in 1825 on the edge of the town of the same name, it operated without incident until 1930, when it was mothballed. Owned by the Distillers Company Ltd since 1925, it reopened in 1967, after some refurbishment and expansion, to provide whisky for the company’s blends. Despite growing in size, it was still the smallest of DCL’s distilleries on Islay and when the 1980s’ downturn caused it to close one of them, Port Ellen was the obvious choice.
Today, the site is now a maltings, producing a large proportion of the malt needed on Islay, but with the distillery itself dismantled, the supply of Port Ellen whisky is finite, and the few remaining casks are hidden in warehouses across Scotland. While owner Diageo releases an annual bottling, independent bottlers are now the main source of whisky from this lost distillery. However, with the angels taking their share and the number of casks still to be bottled slowly decreasing, it is only a matter of time before there is no more whisky from this much-loved lost distillery.