Like the legend of the Phoenix… ooh ooh – Diageo recently (well, not that recently anymore… ) announced they were to re-open their sleeping beauties Port Ellen and Brora by 2020, quickly followed by a second breaking news in the whisky world: Rosebank was to distill again as well! And those 2 announcements instantly gave birth to a whole online war between the usual dark cynicals and the gullible happy bees.
I know it took me some time to react to this news and express my views, I probably needed to digest and process those announcements instead of jumping onto my keyboard straight away and tell the world that those filthy rich guys had yet again found another idea to get even richer… It’s not all black and white.
One point that I’ve tried to make many times here: YES, spirits producers and distributors ARE businesses. Their purpose is to make great products and SELL them to make MONEY. That’s how a business work, and Diageo has proved quite good at it. Businesses are part of a market they are aware of, they constantly monitor this market, they know before you what’s gonna be the next big trend, because more often than you can imagine, they are the ones creating those trends.
So yes, the rebirth of Brora and Port Ellen isn’t only happening as a grateful gift to whisky lovers or as a statement saying “we’ve heard you our beloving consumers, and our aim is that you can have access to those legendary whiskies again, so that each and every one of you can taste the wonders of those sleeping beauties” — krkrkr
First things first, once their stills will be spitting out new whisky, it WON’T be the same as it used to be (maybe for the best who knows, do you know why those distilleries closed in the 1980s? Oh by the way, Port Ellen is now used as a malting facility but the old stills are not there anymore, and as one is aware, stills are unique and very important to the distillery’s style), so no, you’re not going to have access to those legendary whiskies, don’t be stupid. You’ll have access to new Port Ellen, new Brora and new Rosebank, which doesn’t mean it won’t be good whisky.
Anyway, will they still preserve that “legendary” status when back into production? Probably not.
Will the value of old Port Ellen, Brora or Rosebank decrease on secondary market? Probably not, because “old style” will still be very much different.
I personally prefer to see this rebirth as the addition of brand new distilleries to the Scotch whisky landscape, but new distilleries with a strong heritage and already an immense recognition amongst whisky enthusiasts, which is something unusual for new distilleries (and also pretty useful to sell 3-year-old releases at above £100 but hey… shhhh let’s not put the cart before the horse here and let’s give them the benefit of the doubt ok?).
With all those new distilleries popping up, should we be worried about a potential whisky loch, when supply exceed demand? I’m not the Nostradamus of whisky, but a sure thing is that if there was to be a whisky loch situation in the future, I don’t think those distilleries will be impacted first, the difficulty will probably first come to independent micro-distilleries who may not have the ability to survive within such circumstances.
Port Ellen, Brora and Rosebank used to be weak, their branding is now stronger than ever, closing them was probably the best thing that happened to those distilleries. The big question mark for me remains that Diageo has put a lot of efforts to build those brands (Port Ellen and Brora) as myths, to erect them as a sort of “all-mighty” goal for whisky collectors who had this feeling of owning a real piece of history and they are now destroying their own construction? From the outside, it does look a bit like self-mutilation, but I have no doubt this decision has been thoughtfully taken by a team of financial and marketing analysts that exactly know where they are going…
So yes, for many reasons, I’m excited to find out what their strategy actually is !
WAIT AND SEE !
And if by 2023, you’re still looking to purchase a piece of Scotch whisky history, there are still many options for you: St Magdalene, Littlemill, Imperial, Banff, Coleburn, Caperdonich, Convalmore, Dallas Dhu…
Cover pic: Wine Invest Direct