'Ghost' whisky distillery in Scotland reopens after 40 years

What was once the remnants of a “ghost” distillery on Islay, a great source of peated whisky in Scotland, is now an ultra exclusive distillery with a luxurious and polished blueprint.

In 1983, Port Ellen, a workhorse distillery, closed due to an overabundance of single malt whisky production in the area. Due to the surplus, a number of whisky-making locations closed in order to promote the financial robustness of larger companies.

“It was a flavor factory for creating a sweet, smokey type of Islay whisky,” Ewan Morgan, National Luxury Ambassador and Head of Whisky Outreach at Diageo North America, told Fox News Digital.

Morgan is a whisky veteran himself and has spent 34 years in the industry. His father and grandfather both previously embarked on lengthy spirit careers in the same region.

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Port Ellen Gemini is a 44-year-old whisky pulled from three-decades-old casks. (Diageo)

“For the reopening of Port Ellen, what they wanted to do was create two different styles of whisky there, that still had the same, you know, style that Port Ellen was known for,” he said. “What they wanted to do was recreate the stills to the exact specifications as they were before it closed in 1983.”

Among the eight million items within Diageo’s renowned alcohol archive lie the blueprints for the stills of Port Ellen from decades ago.

“The originals have been recreated,” Morgan said.

While some of the once-abandoned features of the distillery were replicated, Port Ellen reopened with a number of modern improvements and functional elements.

“Once you arrive, there’s a wonderful luxury lounge there,” he said. “They do a tea service. They do three very different teas that emulate the flavor profile or the mouthfeel of the whisky that’s being made at Port Ellen.”

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Port Ellen distillery is on the isle of Islay in Scotland and is a source of great peated whisky. (Diageo)

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Port Ellen closed in 1983 and recently reopened with nods to the "ghost" of the former distillery but also built in modern elements and functional design. (iStock)

Port Ellen is a private oasis, and visitors will need to request an appointment in advance. Walk-ins are encouraged at other distilleries on Islay, including Caol IIa and Lagavulin.

“And then, finally, you finish up with a tasting of some of the liquid from that distillery from before it closed in 1983,” Morgan said. “It’s a luxury experience.”

The transformed construction subtly nods to the history of the ghost of Port Ellen, but there is one timeless relic that is crucial to today’s whisky emergence.

Iain McArthur, a former employee of Port Ellen, recently retired after a noteworthy career in whisky making.

“He was a major celebrity in the world of whisky,” Morgan said. “People would travel from all over the world to hear him talk and do warehouse tastings.”

The remnant cask that is presently being used by Port Ellen to create Gemini, a newly released whisky, was saved by McArthur before the original distillery closed down.

“He took it from Port Ellen to Lagavulin, and that’s what we then took back to Port Ellen for this recent bottling,” Morgan said. “So, he was a critical, intrinsic part in, not only the distillery story, but also in saving this wonderful barrel.”

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Gabriele Regalbuto is an SEO editor at Fox News Digital. Gabriele has a Journalism and Communications degree from West Virginia University. She has worked to produce content for newspapers, magazines, and digital platforms. At Fox, she has assisted in coverage of breaking news events including the 2024 presidential cycle, 2022 midterm elections, Queen Elizabeth II’s death, the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

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