Brora and Port Ellen – A Real Good News Story

This morning I feel like an overly excited school boy having discovered girls for the first time.

This doesn’t happen often.

I am digesting the news this morning of the re-juvenation and re-opening of the two distilleries close to the heart of most single malt enthusiasts of a certain age. To hear that Port Ellen is to be made once again is one thing, but to hear the two syllable word, Brora, mentioned in the same sentence is just froth inducing. I can almost hear the collective pulses of the world’s whisky-loving public racing collectively as they wake up to the news.

In fact I called Colin Dunn, my old mate from Diageo, just to have a gossip about it. We were like two kids talking about the latest Playstation or whatever it is kids get excited about now. We talked for half an hour just bouncing slavering comments and conjecture around whilst collectively trying to keep it together and not just run screaming and naked through the streets.

If you haven’t heard the announcement, then I would say ‘Where have you been!’ – it has made national news, so monumental is this deemed. So for those who haven’t, read this before reading on…


I honestly don’t care what others think of me, but I am genuinely pleased and think this is great news on so many levels. They include;

  1. Islay. A place close to our hearts that will surely benefit from further investment and the jobs and additional tourism this will create. Not to mention the area surrounding Brora in Sutherland.
  2. Consumers. All of those people who never got to taste either whisky at a younger age.
  3. The wider industry. Other distillers may well be encouraged to follow in Diageo’s footsteps. The current national spotlight and PR generated by this has got to help the industry as a whole.
  4. Diageo. A company that takes a lot of knocks from certain parts, has with announcement, created a huge amount of good will. It is great to see such a behemoth of a company not only to have the imagination to, but to actually go ahead with a project like this.
  5. Whisky nerds. It feels good.

As a natural cynic – yes, really – there are lots of questions and ‘yes but’ things going around my head even though it sounds from the statement that they are going about things in the right fashion.

Questions such as;

  1. How are they going to be able to re-create the whiskies of a by-gone era using today’s differing barley strains, peat types, etc.
  2. Are they going to reflect not just the still types but also fermentation times, etc.
  3. Yesterdays whiskies from these distilleries were filled into 3rd fill+ casks. Will they adhere to this or will they at least hive off a proportion of spirit to be matured in refill barrels in order that the younger product will be suitably ’rounded’.
  4. Will the distilleries be run by people with cogs and wheels with no Star Trek-alike consoles to be seen?
  5. Will they make gin? (Joke. Although obviously the first question that leapt to mind…)

There are many others that come to mind and I am sure that, until the distilleries open in 2020, there will be many more to be answered. The next three years will be full of anticipation and, I am sure, and as is the norm (sadly?), much cynicism and doubt.

All I would say is this.

Embrace it. Bathe in it.

This really is the good news story it sounds like. Diageo have done something stunningly good. We just have to have faith that they will respect the legacy and history of these iconic distilleries and do things right. I’m praying they will.

Right, I’m off to try and calm down a bit…

Eddie out.