Designs for ili distillery revealed - a new whisky distillery on Islay

A planning application has been submitted to Argyll and Bute Council Scotland for a new building to house an innovative new distillery on Islay.

Published 21st Feb 2022
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

Named ili, the distillery will be the newest, smallest whisky maker on the island and with aspirations to be carbon neutral.

Although Islay’s distilleries are ‘shed’ forms - rectilinear plans, gable roofs, white walls, grey roofs - the island is home to a range of circular structures: lighthouses, Bowmore Church, pre-historic duns and brochs and an unusual 1820 cow barn.

These informed a design process that led to a drum-like building, overlooking Loch Gearach, and the project is being undertaken by Alan Higgs Architects.

A spokesperson for Alan Higgs Architects said: "The building will be a natural, organic part of the lyrical landscape in which it is set. It is a composition that has no back or front, but it responds to functions, aspects and prospects and the dramatic land contours.

"It respects the presence of wind, rain, cloudscape and the changing vegetation and loch surface and is welcome to the sun and light. This shape is the most efficient way to enclose space, maps the process of making whisky and evokes the tuns, tanks, pipes, stills, barrels and bottles that are emblematic of spirit making.

"It signifies the creative approach of ili as a distillery, would attract visitors, and add to the built heritage of the Isle of Islay.

"The distillery is carefully placed in the landscape. Its position on the contour means that it is single storey facing the road, the public realm and that its second, lower floor sits under the entrance level and is more open facing north.

"This cross-section and its roof pitch follow the land form. Visible walls are solid stone, reclaimed from redundant structures on the farm - roughly textured and naturally of varying colour and shaped units. Away from the road glazing is double-height, with the space housing the stills behind."

Inside the distillery, visitors will find a shop and cafe, as well as a views out to Loch Gearach and a mezzanine level that houses parts of the washbacks, tuns and stills.

There will also be a tasting room and area for introducing tours. The floor here will be a moving platform, which lowers visitors at the table to the production floor.

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When it comes to sustainability, the architects said: "Circular structures are structurally efficient inherently and the materials philosophy is 'use natural, reduce and source locally'.

"Concrete use is minimised and optimised for carbon and aggregates sourced from site will reduce carbon emissions through transport and impact on the local infrastructure.

"Wood is currently the only renewable building material that can create load bearing structures. The roof and upper floor structure is an array of Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) components."

A funding model, based on a Community Benefit Fund linked directly to future operation of the distillery is proposed, with a commitment to contribute to a local community fund once the distillery is fully operational.

To find out more, visit the Alan Higgs Architects website.

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Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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