Port Ellen Distillery was founded around 1825. The distilling plant was silent from 1929 although the maltings and warehouses continued operating. Rebuilding began in spring of 1966 and completed in April 1967; it had 4 stills, initially heated by mechanical coal stoker, and later converted to steam heated coils. The distillery closed in 1983 and the bottled product has now become very collectable. The Excise Act in 1824 required the distillers to install a Spirit Safe, thereby effecting more control over the distillers. It was thought that the introduction of Spirit Safes might have a detrimental effect on the quality of spirit produced, and therefore it should be tried experimentally first, with Port Ellen chosen to carry out these trials.
Update 9th Oct 2017: Diageo has announced that Port Ellen Distillery will be brought back into production starting 2020. Click here for more info
Port Ellen Maltings first started producing malt in 1974, supplying only United Distillers own distilleries, Caol Ila, Lagavulin, and Port Ellen. The malt is produced in drums, which can be likened to very large washing machine drum; the process is automatic. The maltings now supply the majority of Islay's Distilleries with their requirements, produced to their exact specifications. Tours of the maltings are by special appointment and during the Islay Whisky Festival, and are only advised for those who are particularly interested in the technicalities. A tour is also ill advised for anyone with a fear of heights.
Port Ellen Maltings Tours
Port Ellen Maltings can be visited only during the annual Islay Malt Whisky Festival or by special arrangement.