A FORMER pioneering distillery on Islay is to be restored after local authorities approved plans from whisky giant Diageo to bring it back into production.

Port Ellen was established as a malt mill on the island's south coast in 1825 but was largely demolished in the 1930s. The distillery was rebuilt in 1967 only to close again 16 years later.

It is credited with first testing the spirit safe – now a feature of all Scotch malt whisky distilleries – in the winter of 1823/24.

After approval from Argyll and Bute Council, Diageo plans to combine traditional and modern approaches to distilling at the site, replicating the original Port Ellen copper pot stills and restoring an historic pagoda-roofed kiln house and traditional sea-front warehouses.

Georgie Crawford, the master distiller leading the Port Ellen project, said: "We are delighted to have reached this important milestone in our journey to bring Port Ellen back into production.

"We are grateful to Argyll and Bute Council and to the local community who have engaged positively with us during the planning process. We are incredibly excited to begin the next phase of the project and to make our long-cherished dream of restoring Port Ellen distillery a reality."

Alongside the copper pot stills will be a second, smaller pair of stills that will produce alternative spirit characters, allowing experimentation with new whisky styles.

The project takes inspiration from John Ramsay, who owned Port Ellen in its formative years and helped pioneer the exporting of single malt to the United States and was an early adopter of the now-common practise of finishing single malt in specific casks.

In October 2017, Diageo announced a £35 million investment programme to bring back Port Ellen on Islay and Brora distillery in Sutherland, both of which closed in 1983.