Reopened Scottish distilleries

The iconic single malt distilleries Port Ellen and Brora are to be reopened by their owner, Diageo, as part of a £ 35 million investment. Both legendary distilleries are expected to be fully operational by 2021, and the new Master Distillers are already working hard to ensure that the first releases live up to the expectations of the whisky fan base of these distilleries. Speaking of reactivating these Scottish distilleries, it's worth explaining why they closed, despite the fact that they now have so many devoted whisky connoisseurs.

Both Port Ellen and Brora were closed in 1983 by Distillers Company Limited, which was Diageo's predecessor. In those days, it was a move that was perfectly justified and resulted directly from the market situation. To understand it, one must go back to the late 1950s, which were the beginning of the so-called "Second Golden Age" of Scotch whisky. It was a time of dynamically growing demand and popularity of the Scottish national drink among consumers. Until the late 1970s there was a "boom" on the whisky market, and producers constantly increased production to meet market expectations. It was a time of investment and opening of new distilleries. However, due to the worsening economic situation, a phenomenon called "whisky loch" appeared on the market, consisting in an oversupply of this drink. It should be remembered that Scotch whisky had far less diverse outlets then, and the demand was not driven by the masses of new whisky enthusiasts from Asia and developing countries, as it is now. Another significant difference was the much greater dominance of blended whisky - single malt as a type of whisky was just gaining recognition in the eyes of consumers.

All this led to a situation where many Scottish distilleries had to close. In 1983, DCL closed 10 distilleries, including Brora and Port Ellen – not well known distilleries that were not popular with consumers at the time.

These two ghost distilleries have since gained legendary status among a growing legion of whisky lovers who will pay large sums for one of the few remaining bottles. Their legend began to build only when single malt peat whiskies began to gain popularity, and connoisseurs discovered a few bottles from closed distilleries, which of course led to a sharp increase in their prices. It is also worth mentioning that in the 1980s a similar fate befell many distilleries, which are now considered an integral part of the single malt Scotch whisky market, including Ardbeg, Bunnahabhain, Glenglassaugh or even Springbank.

Today, with the market experiencing a huge increase in demand for Scotch whisky and the long-term outlook is very optimistic, Diageo has decided to invest £ 35m to bring Port Ellen and Brora back to life. Due to its cult status, the reactivated distilleries are designed to reflect the character of the whisky produced there before closing as much as possible. This is what consumers and the market expect from them. Both distilleries are expected to produce whisky in controlled volumes, mimicking the distillation system and flavour profile of its predecessors whenever possible.

It is clear that manufacturers in their long-term strategies do not assume that the market situation will deteriorate in the coming decades. Scotch whisky is gaining popularity in the world, companies have access to millions of new consumers from emerging markets, and producers and organisations care about proper supply regulation. Older and more expensive whiskies are gaining popularity, but increases are noticeable in almost every category, even such niches as grain whisky. This is confirmed not only by the example of Port Ellen or Brory. After all, in recent years we have witnessed the reactivation of e.g. Bladnoch, Annandale and Glen Keith distilleries.

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