R&B Distillers are bringing this traditional Scottish craft to an unchartered whisky region, harnessing the raw elements of the unique terroir to create the first Raasay Scotch, which will be ready to drink from 2020.
Co-founders Alasdair Day and Bill Dobbie are realising a dream to make whisky in this uncommon location.
Alasdair Day describes the uniqueness project: “It is the location; an island off an island with complex geology, water and island climate with probably the best views form any distillery in Scotland, that makes Raasay ideal for our innovative Scotch whisky distillery.”
Raasay is a small island, only fourteen miles in length, situated off the East coast of Skye. The island's 120 residents have watched eagerly as this disused Gothic villa hotel, Borodale House, has been transformed into the new distillery, adjacent visitors’ centre and Na Tùsairean Club members’ accommodation which will be opening later.
In February 2016, R&B Distillers received permission from the Highland Council to bring the first distillery to Raasay.
The young brand subsequently secured grants from the Food Processing Marketing and Co-Operation Grants Scheme, as well as the Highlands and Islands Enterprise, for the development of a visitor’s centre which is projected to bring in 12,000 visitors to Raasay in the first year.
The distillery on Raasay will be furnished with two copper pot stills sourced from Frilli in Tuscany and R&B predict that it will be able to produce 150,000 bottles of Scotch whisky a year.
Single malt, Raasay While We Wait is an aptly named taste of the style of whisky that will be produced on Raasay.
It is lightly peated to reflect the volcanic mineral content in the water supply, and balanced by fruity notes from Tuscan red wine finishing casks.
The team also has the long-term ambition of using all-local ingredients – water, peat and barley– to create a spirit that is a true reflection of this uncommon terroir.
In June 2017, R&B Distillery commenced Barley growing trails on the island to assess the possibility of growing and ripening barley suitable for whisky making locally with farmers and crofters.
The distillery will be independently owned and operated and is expected to generate employment for up to 10% of the island residents.
In July 2017 R&B announced the distillery team who will be integral to whisky production: the team is comprised of an island resident, a young distilling graduate and a master distiller with decades of whisky prowess.
Designed by Olli Blair from ABIR Architects and Allen Associates, the distillery incorporates the Victorian Borodale house and the modernity of a brand new distillery.
However, the main feature of the design brief was to showcase and compliment the stunning views from the distillery site. This has been taken into careful consideration throughout.
R&B Distillers are proud to be utilising some of the raw talent found on Raasay: they have employed Raasay local, Norman Gillies, as Distillery Manager.
Norman was born and raised on Raasay and has been involved in the distillery project from the early days, working as Site Engineer and then Ground Foreman on the construction process.
With a strong engineering background coupled with experience on the build from the outset, Norman understands the workings of the distillery.
Iain Robertson has been appointed as the Distiller and has relocated to the island to join the team.
Iain is a recent Honours graduate of the Heriot Watt Brewing and Distilling school. During his studies, he took a placement at North British grain distillery and worked at Edinburgh’s The Scotch Whisky Experience as one of their highly knowledgeable tour guides.
Iain is not only formally educated in the art and science of distilling but is innovative and enthusiastic about respectfully pushing the boundaries of the spirit.
Master Distiller Chris Anderson will be joining Iain and Norman for the inaugural 5 months to oversee the initial distillation.
He has experience at Dewars and United Distillery, and has helped with production at Ardnamurchan and Kilchoman distilleries – he will lend this expertise to the Raasay Distillery.
Most recently he has been involved with the Lakes Distillery in Cumbria and the construction of neighbouring Torabhaig Distillery on the Isle of Skye.
Chris will be invaluable to R&B Distillers as they establish one of Scotland’s newest whisky distilleries.
The Distillery has also announced, via its Facebook page, that they are looking to recruit a team of local guides to welcome visitors and show them around the distillery and share the story of its development and the whisky.