Port Ellen was established as a malt mill on Islay’s famous south coast in 1825 by Alexander Mackay. It developed into a major distillery under John Ramsay from 1833-92. Trading directly with North America, in 1848 Ramsay secured the right to export whisky in larger casks and to store it in bonded duty free warehouses prior to export. The system endures.
The warehouses he built also still exist, and are listed buildings today. In 1967 the distillery was rebuilt, producing through the 1970s and closing in 1983. The Port Ellen name is kept alive by the island’s maltings and its excellent Annual releases. Previous Special Releases of Port Ellen have regularly won Gold or Silver Medals at IWSC. A 29 year old was also voted Best Single Malt Scotch, winning Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2009. The equal oldest Port Ellen ever released, we think that this example perfectly illustrates the remarkable potential longevity of this now legendary single malt whisky.
Port Ellen produced approximately 1.2 million liters per year. The water used in production was drawn from the Leorin Lochs on heavily peated Islay. Some of the most unique elements of production at Port Ellen was the use of four pot stills that were heated by mechanical coal stokers. The distillery was the first to use Septimus Fox’s spirit safe design, and numerous technical experiments revolutionised the whisky industry.