New Scotch Distilleries to Watch – Part 1

It seems that every other week a new distillery is planned, granted permission or has been built up and down Scotland. In fact, from 2010 to 2015 the HMRC granted over 150 distilling licenses! Admittedly most of these licenses have been granted to companies planning to produce vodka and gin, however, there at least 40 of these distilleries that plan to produce our beloved single malt scotch. How can you keep with all these developments, how can you keep up to date with the all this new whisky? Fortunately, we are doing that for you – and in alphabetical order! 

Abhainn Dearg Distillery

Founded in 2007 Abhainn Deag – Gaelic for Red River – is the first distillery on the Isle of Lewis for 170 years. The last legal distillery was the short-lived Shoeburn distillery. Beginning production of spirits in 1833 Shoeburn was bought by abstainer and prohibitionist Sir James Matheson in 1844 and was promptly demolished! The distillery draws its water from the Abhainn Dearg – you guessed it, the reason for the distilleries name – which flows from the Uig hills. This water is untouched by humans. There is no industrial usage, no village draws from it and there is not a single house a long its bank – there is just Abhainn Dearg Distillery at the river’s mouth. Alongside this, Abhainn Deag sources all of its barley from local suppliers – using an aptly named Moonshine barley (don’t worry, we’re pretty sure it’s not going to taste like moonshine!). Even better, Abhainn Dearg has access to Lewis’ abundance of peat – so you can expect a lovely peaty, smoky dram! If you like the sound of Abhainn Dearg so far, it gets better. 

Abhainn Dearg is an environmentally conscious distillery. For every barrel used for maturation of spirits the distillery plants two trees. They help ensure that the local fish population is sustainable by regularly releasing fish into Loch Scaslavat. The distillery even raises Highland cattle – who feed on the spent grain – to help fertilise the grasslands! So far Abhainn Dearg have released Spirit of Lewis in 2010, launched of limited edition 3YO single malt in 2011 and they plan to release 10YO single malt in 2018.

Abhainn Dearg – Spirit of Lewis: Master of Malt £37.80.

Ailsa Bay

Ailsa Bay’s Pot Stills 

Opened in 2007, Ailsa Bay took a mere 9 months to construct and the facility was christened by HRH Prince Charles in 2009. Interestingly, Ailsa Bay is located within William Grant & Sons Girvan distillery in the Lowlands – on exact site that Ladyburn stood from 1966 – 1976. This is located on the Clyde coast, looking outward to Ailsa Craig, Kintyre and Arran. William Grant built Ailsa with 8 stills to produce a wide variety of styles of whisky – particularly, four flavour profiles of whisky: estery, fruity, nutty and heavily peated. Visitors to Ailsa Bay may notice similiarities between the their stills and Balvenie’s, that’s because the distillery was built to produce a Balvenie-style single malt to supplement William Grants blends. Their first single malt was a heavily-peated NAS released in February 2016 – William Grant’s first peated whisky! 

Ailsa Bay – Single Malt: Master of Malt, £53.95; The Whisky Shop, £55

Annandale Distillery

Annandale Distillery

To quote Annandale Distillery’s website: “
Whisky flows from Dumfries and Galloway once more after a century of silence”. Annandale is the revival of the distillery of the same name who began productioin in 1836, but unfortunately closed down in 1915. For 82 years the former distillery had been reduced to producing porridge but now, following a £10.5 million restoration project, it has been restored to its former glory. It’s not long until we get a taste of Annandale’s single malts, with plans to release two in 2018; Man o’ Words – a dedication to Robert Burns who lived in nearby Dumfries (Barrels 1 – 38, a non-peated fruity expression), and Man o’ Sword – a dedication to Robert the Bruce, the 7th Lord of Annandale (Barrels 40 – 75, a peated, smoky expression). The first cask filled will be matured for 10 years and is a 2nd-fill American Oak bourbon cask. If you can’t wait that long, Annandale are currently selling the Blended Scotch Whisky Nation of Scots, and the two new make spirits – one peated and one under peated – under the name Rascally Liquor. If you wish – or can afford it – Annandale is also selling a large number of casks for £100,000 as well as cask no.1 for £1 million. They’re also selling the casks of their new make for £2,100 for un-peated and £2,300 for peated.


Arbikie’s column and pot stills

On the east coast of Angus, the Arbikie Highland estate has been owned by the Stirling family since the 1920s – but they have been farming the Highlands since 1660. This family ownership is being continued with the Arbikie Highland Estate Distillery being founded in 2013 by the Stirling brothers Iain, David and John. The venture began with David calling his brothers to announce his discovery, that in 1794 there had been a distillery on their estate – the brothers immediately decided to revive this distillery and it was rebuilt in 2014. The brothers are not lacking whisky experience – with Iain having worked at Diageo, Whyte & Mckay Jim Beam. Nevertheless, the brothers are maintaining their family legacy and are taking a hands on approach by growing their barley on their family farm next to the distillery. The water sourced for their spirits is from an underground lagoon, which is formed from rain that has fallen on surrounding hills and filtered through 400 million year old rocks on its way to the lagoon. The only thing not done at the distillery is malting, but they have plans to incorporate a malt floor. 

Arbikie distillery began producing whisky in 2015 and will use bourbon, sherry and red wine casks. The whisky will be rich and deep with honeyed tones  and a complexity of salty, coastal notes. The distillery has a capacity of 560 litres per day. However, there is some bad news… We won’t be tasting Arbikie single malt for another 13 years. Yes, we are all going to be waiting until 2029 for their first bottling – the Stirling brother won’t release any whisky until they have a 14 year old! Which is fair, and it’s good to see such commitment to quality. Now the good news! For those who can afford it, Arbikie are pre-selling 300 casks. For those who can’t afford to to own a cask, Arbikie is also producing both vodka and gin! Which Arbikie claims made it the first distillery in Scotland to produce both white and brown spirit.

Arbikie – Kirsty’s Gin: Master of Malt, £34.26.  

Arbikie – Chilli Vodka: Master of Malt, £39.48.

Arbikie – Potato Vodka: Master of Malt, £41.88.

Ardgowan Distillery 

Ardgowan is another revival of a closed distillery in the town of Inverkip in Inverclyde region, and adds another distillery to the growing number in the Lowlands. Originally the Ardgowan distillery was founded as a grain distillery in 1896 but was unfortunately closed in 1907, but was revived to produce grain and industrial alcohol until 1952. Ardgowan distillery experienced a number of tragedies. In 1903, the distillery endured an immense 5 day fire that cost the lives of several of its workers. During the Blitz, Ardgowan Distillery was hit by German bombers. The blaze that ensued was so great, that German bombers believed that they had scored a hit on the Greenock-gas works that was nearby and illuminated the nearby area to other German bombers (more information about the tragedy can be found here). 

However, after tumultuous history, the distillery is being once again resurrected with the Ardgowan Distillery Company planning to submit plans to council in October this year. It is estimated that the project will cost between £15 million – £18 million and whisky production could begin in 2019. Alongside the production of whisky, the Ardgowan distillery will have a gin still and a microbrewery for beer. On the 22nd of September, Ardgowan held a public exhibition to allow questions from the public about its activities. The distillery itself will be located on the Ardgowan Estate, and overlooks the Clyde estuary. The estate itself has connections to Robert the Bruce who fought a number of battles there against the English! The estate was granted to John Steward, a great-great grandson of the Bruce, in 1404 and has remained in the Shaw-Steward family ever since.

                                                                                                                                                      Part 2 >

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