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Distilled – The reopening of Port Ellen ‘ghost distillery’

Our latest round-up of trends from the top shelf, including the reopening of legendary Port Ellen distillery, the recipe for a Hemingway Daiquiri and the definition of a Carter-head still.

Legendary Port Ellen distillery reopens

Reporting by Neil Ridley. See the full story here.

Former ‘ghost distillery’ Port Ellen has been resurrected as part of a £185 million investment by Diageo. The Islay single malt distillery was founded in 1825, but mothballed in 1930. After reopening in 1967, it was closed again in 1983. Its last casks were stored nearby and over the following decades, they blossomed into an extraordinary, distinctly smoky single malt. In 2017, Diageo announced plans to bring Port Ellen back to life. Work was completed early this year and the new distillery complex opened in March. ‘We’re very lucky that we have the Diageo archive team, who had documents and blueprints for the original stills,’ explained Master Distiller Alexander McDonald. ‘Everything from the shape and fill size has been accurately recreated to the original specifications.’ To celebrate, the distillery has unveiled a new release: Port Ellen Gemini. This 44-year-old release features twin decanters of whisky first distilled in 1978 and filled into two contrasting oak casks. Only 274 sets are available, priced at £45,000.

What is… a Carter-head still?

The Carter-head still was invented in 1821 by John Carter, specifically for gin production. It makes use of a separate botanical basket to infuse the heated vapour as it leaves the top of the still, gently extracting the flavours and aromas from the botanicals inside. In a traditional still, the botanicals are simply immersed in the base spirit and heated. Although widely manufactured until the 1960s, Carter-head stills are now only used by a handful of gin distillers, including Hendricks and Bombay Sapphire.

What to drink now… Hemingway Daiquiri

Also known as an El Floridita, this is a twist on the classic Daiquiri: a mix of rum, lime juice and sugar. The original is said to have been invented in Cuba in 1898. This twist was created by Constantino ‘Constante’ Ribalaigua Vert, who created various Daiquiri adaptations at his Havana bar El Floridita in the 1930s. The Hemingway Daiquiri is based on Ribalaigua’s Daiquiri No3, which added a barspoon each of grapefruit juice and maraschino liqueur to the original recipe. It’s named after writer and prodigious imbiber Ernest Hemingway, who drank many of them at El Floridita. If you want to mix one at home, try Plantation 3 Stars (Alc 41.2%, £24.95-£28/70cl Amazon, Distillers Direct, Spirits Kiosk, The Whisky Exchange, Threshers), an engaging blend of rums from Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad.

Ingredients: 50ml white rum, 15ml freshly squeezed lime juice, 10ml sugar syrup, 1 barspoon grapefruit juice, 1 barspoon maraschino liqueur

Glass: Coupe

Garnish: Luxardo maraschino cherry

Method: Put all of the ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until your hands are cold, then strain into a chilled coupe and garnish.

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