Plans submitted for Witchburn Distillery - a new Campbeltown whisky distillery

Glasgow-based independent whisky bottler and blender Brave New Spirits, have submitted a final planning application to Argyll & Bute council, for a new single malt whisky distillery at the former RAF Machrihanish airbase in Campbeltown.

Published 24th May 2023
Updated 20 th Sep 2023

The Witchburn Distillery, which will be located between Campbeltown Airport and Machrihanish Village, will use traditional distilling craftsmanship to produce unpeated, lightly peated and heavily peated malts.

The new Net Zero carbon production distillery - which will produce two million litres of alcohol per year, will be powered by 100% green renewable energy sources.

It will utilise the latest in heat and energy recovery systems, making Witchburn one of the most environmentally friendly distillery in Scotland.

The distillery is planning to run 24/7, to ensure it keeps reusing as much heat and energy as possible.

The architects behind The Witchburn Distillery are sustainable distilling and engineering experts, Organic Architects.

Gareth Roberts, founder and director of Organic Architects, said of the plans: "This latest planning application is great news for Campbeltown’s economy.

"Craft whisky makers can thrive here, benefitting from clean water, local power generation and an idyllic location. The whisky boom will provide local well paid and stable jobs across a variety of roles including distilling, warehousing and visitor centres.

"Campbeltown is definitely one to watch and we are proud to be involved in its key turning point in history.”

Witchburn Distillery name and whisky production

Witchburn Distillery Campbeltown

Witchburn takes its name from the word Witch; originally meant folk healers, mostly ‘wised women’ using herbs and power of imagination, and burn, which comes from the Scots Gaelic for naturally occurring fresh water stream or very small river that flows into a larger river.

When complete Witchburn will operate with 1 Mash tun - with a capacity of 5 tons; 16 Washbacks - each with a capacity of 30,000 litres, allowing for a fermentation period of 96 hours or more; 2 Wash Stills – each with a capacity of 16,000 litres and 2 Spirit Stills – each with a capacity of 7,000 litres.

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Witchburn has a carefully planned wood policy, with the majority of its spirit to be filled into barrels from famous American Bourbon producers, Oloroso Sherry casks from various Bodegas, selected Tawny and Ruby Port barriques and organic Bordeaux wine barriques.

The distillery will mature its casks in on-site warehousing close to the sea, and in warehouses in the Campbeltown area.

Production at Witchburn will be headed by founding master distiller, Andrew Nairn, former distillery manager of Glenkinchie, Strathmill and Borders Distillery.

He said: “I’m delighted to have the opportunity to work with Organic Architects and Frilli to develop a distillery to produce a truly great Campbeltown Spirit to combine traditional artisan methods of whisky-making with the latest green technology is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Witchburn, which plans to create around 30 permanent new jobs in production, warehousing, and distribution, also plans to open a visitors’ centre in the next few years.

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Commenting on the news, joint owners of Brave New Spirits and the new Witchburn Distillery, Adam Hochul and Alexander Springensguth, said: “We are looking forward becoming part of the community, contributing to the already worldwide reputation of Campbeltown whisky.

"We could not find a better location to build our first still house. The distillery is a great addition to our existing portfolio of internationally recognised brands of Scotch whisky, but also an opportunity to give back to the outstanding community of Scottish whisky distillers.”

“The whole design aims to produce a typical, complex and full-bodied Campbeltown malt. Our aim is to recreate a whisky like it has been produced many decades ago.”

Subject to planning application approval and schedules, production at Witchburn Distillery will commence in the last quarter of 2024.

The news comes as Campbeltown is in something of a whisky renaissance as there are two other new distilleries in the planning or building stage.

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Machrihanish Distillery is being built by the owners of the Isle of Raasay Distillery, R&B Distillers, who want to add a second single malt whisky brand to their portfolio.

They hope the Machrihanish Distillery will be home to Campbeltown’s first farm-to-bottle single malt.

In 2022, plans were submitted for the Dal Riata distillery. The distillery will be located on Kinloch Road overlooking Campbeltown Loch.

Witchburn Distillery, Campbeltown, UK
Witchburn Distillery, Campbeltown, UK, PA28 6NU
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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