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New distillery for Islay? Whisky company submits plans to local council

Could there soon be a new distillery on Islay? A whisky company has announced that it has submitted revised plans for its proposed site to the local planning department.

Published: February 27, 2020
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The plans by Elixir Distillers, a spirits company created by Whisky Exchange founders Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh, to build a new distillery on the island have now taken a step closer to reality.

First announced in April 2018, the proposed site for the new production facility and visitor’s centre will lie close to the town of Port Ellen on Islay’s south coast.

The Singhs say the distillery will seek to combine the best elements of tradition and modernity in both design and production.

Following extensive conversations with the Argyll & Bute planning team, the revised plans feature an exterior that keeps with the traditional look of the other south coast distilleries alongside modern touches that reflect the site’s individual landscape.

The plans include a floor malting capable of supplying 75 per cent of the full one million LA capacity of the distillery, space for 16 washbacks and four sets of pot stills.

Sukhinder Singh stated that the new project will feature smaller stills, a mixture of modern and traditional yeasts, longer fermentation times and will produce a range of styles of whisky.

He said: "I wanted to build a distillery on Islay because I have always loved the island, its people and its whiskies. I’ve been a regular visitor to the island for over 25 years and must have tasted close to 3000 different Islay whisky bottlings! From a liquid point of view, we are determined to produce the greatest spirit possible."

Modern technologies around distillation and heat reclaim techniques will be used to maximise flavour and energy efficiency and minimise the impact on the environment.  There will also be a separate experimental still producing 200,000 LA per year, with the goal of ensuring Islay stays at the forefront of Scotch whisky innovation.

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The proposed distillery will also incorporate a visitor’s centre along with a multi-purpose educational facility focused on training and an apprentice programme.

This will be aimed specifically at encouraging and training the next generation of distillers and spirits professionals from the Islay community in all aspects of the industry.

Mr Singh also stated that the plans will focus heavily on supporting the local community of Islay, with accomodation for staff and an annual charitable fund providing money that will be spent directly on the island and its residents.

An additional application will be submitted in March 2020 to build eight houses for staff who will be working at the distillery as well as further plans to build accommodation elsewhere on the site, usinf land currently known as Torradale Farm, which will be submitted in a separate application.

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He said: "We want to create something that inspires the people of Islay and our customers, and enhances the reputation of Islay as a source of some of the world’s greatest whiskies.

"Our hope is that our distillery becomes an integral part of the island community, and one of our key priorities is to work collaboratively with the local community to ensure everyone benefits."

Following meetings with the Islay Community Council, Elixir Distillers is hoping to launch the charitable fund to which they will contribute on an annual basis from the moment they break ground on the new distillery.

A board of trustees will manage the funds and decide where they are best spent. Members of the Islay community will be asked to become trustees to ensure the local community are represented in the decision-making process.

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To kick things off, Elixir Distillers will donate £1 from every bottle of their 2020 Port Askaig limited edition release to the fund. This is predicted to raise an initial £15,000. Elixir Distillers will carry out further fund-raising ventures every year thereafter as an ongoing commitment to the Islay community.

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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