We take a look at Scotland's newest distilleries, including those already producing, those under construction and even those that are still just at the planning stages.

There is something magical about the creation of whisky, something akin to alchemy in the turning of crystal clear water into liquid gold.

The practice of distilling would have been as common two or three hundred years ago as the practice of crop farming or raising live stock. In fact by the 1820s, as many as 14,000 illicit stills were being confiscated every year.

The introduction of the Excise Act in 1823, which allowed the distilling of whisky in return for a set licence fee and payment per gallon of proof spirit, changed the industry forever.

Illicit stills became rarer and rarer as the production of Scotch whisky grew in the multi-billion industry we know and love today.

Thankfully though, the Scots love for tinkering, innovation and great whisky, has saw something of a revival in that desire to distil and now more and more distilleries (not just whisky but gin and vodka too) are appearing up and down the country.

Be they new ventures like Eden Mill and Raasay, the product of the success of independent bottlers like Ardnamurchan and Kingsbarns or new additions to existing stables like Aisla Bay and Rose Isle, the future of distilling in Scotland certainly looks bright.

In fact, over the last five years, the HMRC have granted nearly 150 distilling licences, a large portion of these will be for vodka and gin but it does go to show just how many new distilleries are being planned or constructed in Scotland.

The SWA have reported that despite a “slowdown in exports”, the Scotch Whisky industry is “expanding at unprecedented levels” with around 30 new distilleries being planned or built across the country.

Rosemary Gallagher, Scotch Whisky Association head of communications, said: “There is great confidence in the future of the Scotch Whisky industry which is reflected in the amount of distillery projects being announced. There is about £2 billion of investment in infrastructure committed by the industry over the next couple of years, and we know of about 30 to 40 new distilleries at various stages of planning and building. Some projects are from bigger companies already involved in the industry, and others are start-ups from new entrants. We are pleased to see this level of interest in Scotland’s national drink.”

We’ve taken a look at some of these new kids on the block to find out a little more about them. Here are some of Scotland’s newest whisky distilleries:

Abhainn Dearg

Status: Open and producing

Established: 2008

Owners: Mark Tayburn
Region: Highlands (Islands)
Picture: Geograph

Picture: Geograph

Replacing Kilchoman as the most westerly distillery, Abhainn Dearg (pronounced Aveen Jarræk – derived from the Gaelic for red river) is the first single malt distillery in the Outer Hebrides since 1829.

Located on Uig on the isle of Lewis, the distillery began production of spirit several years ago and has now produced its first whisky with its first ten year old due in 2018.

Ailsa Bay

Status: Opened and producing

Established: 2007

Owners: William Grants and Sons
Region: Lowlands

Work began on William Grant and Sons new distillery near Girvan (close to the site of the old Ladyburn distillery) in 2007 and was completed in 2009. Now up and running, this new work horse distillery will help to supply the massive demand for malt whisky for the Grants blend.

Interestingly four different types of spirit will be produced by Aisla Bay, including two peated ones – one of which will be around 50ppm.

Annandale

Picture: Annandale

Picture: Annandale

Status: Open and producing

Established: 2014

Owners: Annandale Distillery Co.

Region: Lowlands

Building work began in 2007 to try and restore the old whisky distillery in Dumfrieshire – which was closed originally in 1924, and re-opened in 2015 – the owners hope to produce two different whiskies.
The first will be a typical light lowland style whisky named ‘Man o’ Words’ inspired by Rabbie Burns, while the second will be a uniquely smoky lowland malt named ‘Man o’Swords’ which will take inspiration from Robert the Bruce, who was also the 7th Earl of Annandale.
Picture: Ardnamurchan

Picture: Ardnamurchan

Status: Open and producing

Established: 2014

Owners: Adelphi Distillery Ltd

Region: Highlands

The recent demands on liquid has seen several of the biggest independent bottlers enter into distilling. Ardnamurchan is the product of Adelphi’s decision to join this growing trend.

Situated on the shores of Loch Sunart, on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, the new distillery began production in July 2014 and will produce three different styles of whisky, one from a bourbon cask, one sherried and one heavily peated.

Ballindalloch

Status: Open and producing

Established: 2014

Owner: Ballindalloch Estate

Region: Speyside

The owners of Ballindalloch castle have turned an old building on their estate, dating back to 1820, into a distillery. The MacPherson-Grant family have had close ties with the whisky industry in the past and their return will see them creating an excellent new whisky in the Speyside style.

Barra

Status: Still at the planning stage

Established: N/A

Owner: Peter Brown

Region: Highlands (Islands)

Picture: Barra

Picture: Barra

This new distillery near Borve on Barra, will be the first on the island. Still yet to undergo construction, the distillery aims to up tourism to the island – setting for the filming of Whisky Galore! – and produce its first whisky as soon as possible.

The planning has hit something of a slow patch though the owners have confirmed that it is still going ahead.

Daftmill

Picture: Daftmill

Picture: Daftmill

Status: Open and producing

Established: 2005

Owner: Francis Cuthbert

Region: Lowlands\Highlands

Granted its license on St Andrews Day 2005, Daftmill is one of the newest distilleries to open in Scotland. A farm distillery owned by the Cuthbert family, the micro distillery hopes to produce whisky once its maturation period is completed.

The barley used for the whisky is grown on the farm (around 100 tonnes annually) and the whisky will be light in the typical lowland fashion.

Very interestingly it considers itself a Lowland and a small portion of the whisky has been placed in casks from the Jack Daniel’s distillery.

Dalmunach 

DalmunachBD

Picture: Pernod Ricard

Status: Open and producing

Established: 2015

Owner: Pernod Ricard

Region: Speyside

Dalmunach distillery, based on the banks of the River Spey in Moray, has been built on the site of the former Imperial distillery, which was mothballed in 1998.

Scotland’s 115th working whisky distillery, it was opened by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in June this year.

The new distillery is part of a £60 million-a-year investment in whisky production by Chivas.

Dalmunach was built using the latest innovations such as heat recovery technology and is the most energy efficient distillery within Chivas Brothers’ portfolio.

Eden.Mill

Picture: Eden Mill

Picture: Eden Mill

Status: Open and producing

Established: (as a whisky distillery) 2014

Owner: Paul Miller

Region: Lowlands

Eden Mill distilled its first whisky in November of 2014. It has already taken in delivery of a 10,000 litre washback and hopes to be producing on a larger scale to sit alongside its brewing and gin production. However, the distillery will not increase its facilities for mass production, instead it will only craft a small number of limited edition whiskies.

The distillery is also creating a “Founders Club” for its single malt customers – which will have 50 members – each will pay £12,000, giving them the right to own one of Eden’s first 100 hogshead casks. They will then have the exclusive right to buy a further three casks in 2017, 2019 and 2021, and receive invitations to play in a Founders Club golf tournament at St Andrews every two years.

Founder and chief executive Paul Miller said: “Our ambition is to make the best small-batch single malt whisky in the world,” he says. “Gin is one of the things that we love making, but ultimately we set up to create a whisky distillery.”

Falkirk Distillery

Picture: Falkirk Distillery

Picture: Falkirk Distillery

Status: Still under construction

Established: N\A

Owner: Falkirk Distillery Company

Region: Lowlands

Part of the ongoing redevelopment of the area, this new distillery will be built not far from the site of the old Rosebank distillery and aims to build on the success of that whisky.

Gartbreck

Picture: Gartbreck

Picture: Gartbreck

Status: Still under construction

Established: N\A

Owner: Jean Donnay

Region: Islay

Set to be the 9th distillery on Islay, Gartbreck is the new project by Jean Donnay, the owner of Glann ar Mor distillery in Brittany. Situated on the shores of Loch Indaal, the distillery will be maintained using traditional methods, including a live flame to heat the copper stills.

Glengyle/Kilkerran

Status: Open and producing

Established: 2004

Owner: Mitchell’s Glengyle Ltd

Region: Campbelltown

The newest old distillery in Campbeltown, Glengyle distillery has been around for 140 years or more, however it has only recently begun producing again. Originally founded by William Mitchell, after a spat with his brother John who he helped run Springbank distillery, William left to build his own.

Now back in the hands of the original family, they have restored the building and have began producing their new malt.

The whisky produced at the distillery is named Kilkerran – derived from the Gaelic ‘Ceann Loch Cille Chiarain’ which is the name of the original settlement where Saint Kerran had his religious cell and where Campbeltown now stands – to avoid confusion with a blended highland malt with the same name as the distillery.

The distillery is now onto the 6th Work In Progress, their annual bottling release.

Picture: SWA

Click to download PDF. Picture: SWA

Huntly 

Status: Still in planning stages

Established: N\A

Owner:  Duncan Taylor

Region: Highland

Still in the planning stages the new distillery by Duncan Taylor will be based in Huntly. The new distillery is said to be under construction and will produce gin as well as whisky, watch this space.

Isle of Harris 

Status: Open and producing

Established: 2015

Owner: Anderson Bakewell and Simon Erlanger

Region: Highlands (Islands)

The new £10m distillery on the Isle of Harris is part of a project to capitalise on the natural resources of this wonderful island. Headed up Anderson Bakewell and Simon Erlanger, it is described as Scotland’s first ‘social distillery’ that aims to keep the island and its people at the heart of its message.

The distillery is already creating a gin range – perhaps most interestingly, a seaweed infused version – and expects to bottle its first malt in four years time under the name Hearach (the Gaelic name for inhabitant of Harris)

Kingsbarns

Picture: Kingsbarns

Picture: Kingsbarns

Status: Open and producing

Established: 2014

Owner: Wemysss Malts

Region: Lowlands

Independent bottling giants Wemyss malts invested nearly £3m into this fledging distillery and have taken over the operation.

Located in The East Neuk of Fife, overlooking the world-renowned Kingsbarns Championship golf course, the distillery recently began selling its new make spirit and hopes to take advantage of the golf tourism the area is famed for.

Lindores

Picture: Lindores

Picture: Lindores

Status: Still in the planning stage

Established: N\A

Owner: Consortium led by Andrew McKenzie Smith

Region: Lowlands

The site where the first recorded drop of whisky was made in 1494, and considered to be the birthplace of Scotch whisky, Lindores Abbey is to be restored to its former glory with a new distillery and visitor centre.

The derelict Lindores Abbey in Fife, where monks made whisky for King James IV in the 15th century, will undergo a £5 million makeover in a bid to attract visitors worldwide and distil whisky once more.

Raasay

Status: Still in the planning stage

Established: N\A

Owner:  R &B Distillers

Region: Highlands (Islands)

The multimillion-pound Raasay Distillery and visitor experience centre will be independently owned & operated by R&B Distillers and hopes to open in January 2017, if planning permission is granted later this year.

Alasdair Day and business partner Bill Dobbie, who set up R & B Distillers in 2014, are looking to create hand-crafted whisky from unusual provenance.

R&B Distillers hope to release the first batch of Raasay whisky by 2020 and produce up to 150,000 bottles of whisky a year thereafter.

Managing Director, Alasdair Day says: “We’re now working hard to engineer a whisky destination unlike any other. From the magnificent views over to Skye, to experiencing craft distilling first hand, we can’t wait for visitors to discover our whiskies, the island and the community here on Raasay.”

Roseisle

Diageo's Roseisle distillery. Picture: Diageo

Diageo’s Roseisle distillery. Picture: Diageo

Status: Open and producing

Established: 2009

Owner: Diageo

Region: Highlands

The brand new super distillery by Diageo is part of the investment in the infrastructure of their whisky production and hopes to be able to meet the demand for the malt of the company’s many blends.

Paul Walsh of Diageo said: “Roseisle distillery is a great source of pride to everyone at Diageo. It gathers all the skill and knowledge we have built up over centuries in distilling whisky and combines it with the highest quality design possible, to create a stunning new distillery. It also uses cutting edge technology to significantly minimise our carbon footprint and impact on the environment.”

Mainly used for blends, it has been confirmed however, that Diageo also intend to bottle a Roseisle single malt.

Strathearn

Status: Open and producing

Established: 2013

Owner: Tony Reeman-Clark, David Lang and David Wight

Region: Highlands

Strathearn distillery is Scotland’s first micro-distillery and probably also the smallest commercial distillery. Interestingly, it’s possibly the most open of all the current distilleries in that it offers plenty of tours and even opportunities to take part in the distillation process itself.

They use traditional Alambic style stills and both peated and unpeated spirit has been produced so far, with the first bottles expected in 2016.

Torabhaig 

Status: Still under construction

Established: N\A

Owner: Mossburn Distillers

Region: Highlands (Islands)

In 2014 construction began on the new Torabhaig Whisky Distillery within a farm steading on the Isle of Skye. Now under the ownership of Mossburn Distillers, the original plan for the distillery was the vision of the late Sir Iain Noble, who initially achieved planning permission for the project in 2002.

The first phase of the construction was completed in 2014 with the first whisky production hoping to start by early 2017.

Wolfburn

Status: Open and producing

Established: 2013

Owner: Aurora Brewing Ltd

Region: Highlands

Not much information exists on the original distillery near Thurso but it was apparently one of the biggest producing distilleries in the area. Using traditional techniques the new distillery aims to produce an unpeated highland malt and when matured will be the most northerly whisky on the mainland of Scotland, taking the title from Old Pulteney who currently hold it.

It has just produced its first spirit which is now laid down and in the maturation process. The main whisky will be a light, fruity speyside style malt while a second lightly peated malt is also expected to be produced.

The wolf logo is based on a drawing by Konrad Gesner, the 16th century linguist and zoologist and is said to be of a sea wolf, which if spotted brought good fortune.

Rumours and possible new distilleries (still in the planning phase)

Inchdairnie micro distillery is a new £7m joint-venture distillery, aimed to be built in Glenrothes, Fife. Construction had already begun and was supposed to have been completed in August of this year. However, speculation remains as to its future as planning permission for the project has apparently been withdrawn.

Plans for a new boutique distillery on Shetland have gone ahead, replacing the now dead Blackwood project. The Shetland distillery will be built at Saxa vord.

Whisky industry veteran Tim Morrison (owner of AD Rattray) aims to breath fresh life into the Queen’s Dock in Glasgow, after ­unveiling plans to build ­a distillery there.

Mr Morrison told The ­Scotsman: “Glasgow has a rich whisky history – in 1963, the trade directory lists 30 or 40 whisky companies working in the city. We began thinking about building a distillery in the spring of 2011 to help secure supplies for AD Rattray, our whisky bottling business.”

Also hoping to put Glasgow back on the distilling map is the Glasgow Distillery Co. who launched their first new product, Makar Glasgow Gin – a premium gin made from the finest botanicals in 2014 and hopes to start producing whisky by the end of this year.

Not to be outdone by its west coast rival, Edinburgh will have its own distillery with proposals to transform the former Engine Shed site into a malt whisky distillery and visitor attraction set to go before council chiefs, reviving a long-forgotten Edinburgh tradition.

It is understood the move would be the first time whisky has been produced in the city since 1925.

There is also a new distillery and bottling plant mooted for Perthshire as part of an expansion for the Scottish Liqueur Centre.

The next five years will be big for one particualar region of Scotland, with plans for no less than three distilleries in the Borders, the first of which has been proposed by Alisdair Day and R &B distillers with whisky fans being called upon to help choose a site.

The second is being proposed by Mossburn Distillers (owners of the new Torabhaig distillery) and will see a large malt and grain distillery built near Jedburgh.

The third is being proposed for a site near Hawick by the Three Stills Company.

Bladnoch distillery near Wigtown, has also been bought over by Australian entrepreneur David Prior who intends to get the flagging distillery back on its feet.

Organic Distilleries, a spin-off company of Organic Architects specialising in distillery design, have also submitted plans to build a new distillery at Drimnin within an existing farm steading and out buildings there.

There has also been work ongoing at Portavadie Distillery, which will consist of a Distillery, bonded warehouse and a visitor centre near Loch Fyne.

Micro distillers Arbikie, based in Arbroath, are looking to produce their own malt within the next few years to join their gins and their vodka range

And to complete the list there has been mentions of Swedish company Grythyttan creating the Longship distillery on Orkney and a new micro distillery has been proposed for Anniston Farms in Lunan, Angus.

About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things whisky-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over six years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink.

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