Whisky production underway at The Orkney distillery

Published 26th Mar 2024
Updated 26 th Mar 2024

The production of single malt Scotch whisky is underway at The Orkney Distillery, marking a new era for the business, best known for its award-winning range of Kirkjuvagr gins.

An initial whisky mash has been completed, with the very first distillation planned for International Whisky Day on Wednesday (27 March).

Moving into whisky, and rum, production has been a long-held ambition for the company, founded in 2016. However, plans to diversify into these new areas were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Licences to distil Scotch whisky and rum were granted to Orkney Distilling Ltd last year, with work to adapt and expand the company’s distillery on Kirkwall’s Ayre Road progressing rapidly over the past few months. 

A pilot brewhouse has now been installed at The Orkney Distillery for the initial whisky and rum development phase.

Late summer will see the addition of three new copper pot stills, together with a larger brewhouse which will provide production capacity of around 30,000 litres of pure alcohol per year. 

The new Orkney single malt Scotch will use old varieties of barley – including locally grown bere - in a slow, traditional way to produce a quality spirit, full of flavour and character. The whisky will be aged in a variety of smaller cask types. 

As an initial step into the whisky market, and before its own single malt becomes available after the minimum three-year maturation period, The Orkney Distillery will be offering two blended whiskies, peated and unpeated, named Hoy and Fara.

These will be further matured in selected barrels in Kirkwall for small batch release.

Orkney distillery whisky
Stephen Kemp (left) and Tony Reeman-Clark of The Orkney Distillery. Picture: Fionn McArthur, Orkney.com

Meanwhile, the company is also progressing with its plans to create new rums, after the first successful distillations in January.

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Managing director of Orkney Distilling Ltd, Stephen Kemp, said: “Whisky production has been our dream since we began work on the distillery in 2017, so we were incredibly excited to receive our official approvals to allow us to finally begin production.

"We’re also fortunate to be working with some of the most respected and experienced whisky production experts.

“Over the past seven years, The Orkney Distillery has become well established within the Scottish drinks sector, with our award-winning range of Kirkjuvagr gins a firm favourite in the marketplace.

"Our single malt Scotch whisky will be a fantastic addition to the distillery’s product range and will be crafted with the same commitment and attention to detail that we’ve applied to our gin production.

"We’ll share more details in the coming weeks and months but suffice to say we’re determined to create a single malt of exceptional quality and provenance, one that reflects our values as a business and celebrates the long tradition of whisky making in Orkney. 

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“We’re also delighted to be offering our two new blended whiskies, Hoy and Fara, which we’ve created using a very fine combination of malts – some local to Orkney.

"These blends will be bottled and further matured in Orkney, and they’ll serve as a brilliant introduction to what we’re looking to achieve with our diversification into Scotch.”

He added: “And, finally, our rum production, which has also started, will give existing and new customers access to a full suite of outstanding products from The Orkney Distillery.”

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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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