This article appears as part of the Food Matters newsletter.

The main topic of conversation at the crack of dawn within Glasgow Airport’s Departure lounge was the size of the plane we were about to board.

“A friend of mine went over last week,” an animated member of our huddle pipes up, “and she said the small propellers make a lot of noise”.

As no stranger to LoganAir’s tiny island fleet, where seating plans are dictated by a balancing act and sacks of mail take pride of place up front, this feels like less of a novelty to me.

Instead, tempting enough to lure me out of bed in time for a 6.30am check-in is our intended destination.

Scotland’s world-famous ‘whisky island’.

I’m certain I’ve mentioned before that my knowledge of our nation’s most famous export shamefully stretches no further than being able to identify tasting notes that only the dullest of palates would miss.

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Food MattersThe golden age of television... and the golden age of Scottish food on television

Well, this year I’m determined to catch up to my peers who, rather irritatingly, can successfully pick out subtle hints of heather honey or sharp citrus with just a whiff of their glass.

And what better way to kick off an education than my very first trip to Islay to witness the rebirth of an icon?

Port Ellen closed in 1983, during a particularly turbulent time for the Scotch whisky industry as a whole and has since operated as a ‘ghost’ distillery.

The Herald:
This means that although it was no longer actively producing its smoky single malt, stocks have been stored and sold, in the knowledge that they would one day deplete completely.

Enter Diageo, who in 2017 vowed to avoid this sad fate by re-opening the once industry-leading facility as the final chapter in its £185 million investment into Scotch Whisky.

From the moment our shooglie aircraft touches down on the island, there’s a momentous sense of ceremony surrounding the occasion.

Almost as if the team had planned it, the sun bursts through the clouds just as we arrive at Port Ellen soon to be ushered upstairs to a meeting room where even the coffee table looks like it would cost more than my monthly paycheque.

Those rare bottles of liquid gold on display behind the glass? Five times it.

It’s increasingly obvious that no expense has been spared throughout the tour which leads us from the state-of-the-art still-house to a secretive room where photography is banned, and empty shelves sit waiting to be filled with future samples.

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But there’s no mistaking it’s the passion of team members at every stage of the journey that has seen the project come to fruition.

When the time for the official opening ceremony arrives, measures of both a 1979 single malt and the very first batch of pioneering new make spirit are passed around before master blender Aimée Morrison leads a toast ‘to the legend of Port Ellen’.

The Herald:
Raising a long-stemmed glass to my nose and breathing in the warm peaty aromas with the gentlest nudge of sweetness, just this once, I feel like an expert.

To read more about the history of Port Ellen Distillery and what its reopening means for the Scotch whisky industry, click here.