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Brora Distillery’s copper stills to be refurbished after 35 years of laying dormant

A lost distillery, which last made spirit in 1983, is set to have its copper stills refurbished as part of plans that will see it reopen and back in production by 2020. 

Published: November 19, 2018
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The copper pot stills of the Brora distillery, which have lain at rest since the distillery closed, have been carefully removed from the distillery before being transported 200 miles to Diageo Abercrombie coppersmiths in Alloa where they will be meticulously refurbished by highly skilled coppersmiths.

The beating heart of any distillery, these original stills are once more set to be the centrepiece of the Brora Distillery as it is brought back into production over the next two years.

Diageo Abercrombie has a heritage of crafting copper stills, with over two centuries of history dating back to 1790.

• READ MORE: Two of Scotland’s most famous ‘lost’ distilleries to be revived by Diageo

The stills have been surveyed using ultrasonic technology and they are in good condition, but require refurbishment to prepare them to return to fulltime distillation. The team at Abercrombie will refurbish Brora’s stills by hand and prepare them to once again produce the outstanding liquid that has made the distillery’s Scotch world famous.

Senior chargehand coppersmith Jim McEwan, who oversaw the moving of the stills, said: “Abercrombie coppersmiths last worked on these very same stills in the early 1980s before the distillery closed its doors, so it’s a great privilege for us to work on them now and to get them ready to produce spirit again.

Brora distillery

How the revived Brora distillery will look. Picture: Diageo

 “They are beautiful stills and they are actually in really good condition, but after 35 years of rest they do need a bit of loving care to get them ready to distil again. It will be a real pleasure to work on these stills.”

 Copper stills are often cited as one of the most crucial parts of the unique signature of every Scotch whisky distillery, with the size and shape of stills playing a crucial role in creating the spirit character the distillery is known for. 

 Stewart Bowman, Brora Distillery project implementation Manager, said: “This is another important milestone in our journey to bring Brora Distillery back to life.

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“Work is now well underway to meticulously restore the distillery buildings back to their former glory, and it is quite an emotional moment to see the stills beginning their journey back to fulltime spirit production.”

Under the plans approved by Highland Council last month (October 2018), work is underway to entirely dismantled the distillery’s historic stillhouse, which dates back almost two centuries to 1819, before it will be meticulously rebuilt stone-by-stone so that it retains its original character but is structurally sound and capable of coming back into production as a working distillery.

 The restoration of Brora Distillery is part of a £35million investment programme by owners Diageo that will also see the iconic Port Ellen Distillery on Islay brought back into production.

 The drinks giant is currently investing over £185 million in Scotch whisky experiences in Scotland.

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As well as theBrora and Port Ellen revivals, the company is investing £150million to transform its existing 12 distillery visitor attractions across Scotland and to open a global Johnnie Walker brand experience in Edinburgh.

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-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 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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