April 27, 2018 – Scotland’s “whisky island” of Islay has around 3,000 residents, and could soon have eleven malt whisky distilleries. Elixir Distillers, the London-based independent bottler owned by The Whisky Exchange founders Sukhinder and Raj Singh, disclosed plans Wednesday night to seek planning approval for a new distillery to be located between Port Ellen and the Laphroaig Distillery on the island’s southern coast.
Sukhinder Singh announced the project at a public consultation held in Port Ellen’s Ramsay Hall, and has been working on the project for several years. Through a spokesperson, Singh declined a WhiskyCast interview request until after the planning proposal is submitted for approval, but said in a news release “as soon as I saw the distillery site I fell in love with it. It’s on the holy grail of whisky roads, passing Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg distilleries on the way to Kildalton Cross. Plus it’s in the town of Port Ellen, which as a collector of Port Ellen single malt, has a special meaning. It was just too good to resist.” The proposed site is along the A846 road just east of the Port Ellen Primary School.
While an architect’s rendering of the proposed distillery was released, no other details have been made available, nor has a name for the distillery been disclosed. Sukhinder Singh has said in the past that he would like to have a distillery on Islay to ensure future supplies of malt whisky for Elixir, which currently bottles the Elements of Islay single malt series using casks from the eight distilleries currently operating on the island. Elixir also produces the Port Askaig single malt using whisky from an undisclosed Islay distillery, widely reputed to be Caol Ila.
The company’s timeline calls for construction to begin in early 2019 assuming that planning approval is received by the end of this year, with distilling to begin the following year. That would make it Islay’s tenth distillery following the opening later this year of Hunter Laing & Co.’s Ardnahoe Distillery near Port Askaig. In addition, Diageo is currently working on plans to reopen its Port Ellen Distillery, which was closed in 1983. The project was announced last October, and is also pending approval from the Argyll & Bute Council. However, while the distilling equipment was dismantled after it was closed, the owners never relinquished the water rights or the original designation of the site for use as a distillery and continue to use the maturation warehouses and many of the distillery buildings, meaning the approval process should be fairly routine. On the other hand, the Elixir Distillers project is being built from the ground up on previously undeveloped land and will likely require a more extensive review process.
This story will be updated with additional information as available.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to show the site of the proposed distillery with information provided by Elixir Distillers.