The following originally appeared on Food Digital on January 17, 2013:
The Scotch whisky industry generates more than £4 billion (approx. $6.4 billion) annually, leading to the Scotch Whisky Association announcing that we’re seeing Scotland’s “Second Golden Age” of whisky. As with any golden age we’re seeing fresh investment and new growth. One area of growth is focused on the construction and launch of new distilleries.
Despite the whisky industry’s most recent downturn occurring as recently as the 1980s, when too many Scottish distilleries were closed temporarily (mothballed) or even completely shuttered and demolished, there is unbridled optimism surrounding the launch of three new Scottish distilleries in 2013. This year will see distilleries open in the north, south, and west of Scotland.
Up north we’ll have Wolfburn distillery in Thurso. While Old Pulteney distillery in Wick has long been proud of being the most northerly distillery on the Scottish mainland that title will now go to Wolfburn. Looking to produce 115,000 liters of mostly unpeated spirit annually, the distillery is named after a distillery that once stood in the town. Shane Fraser, formerly of the famed Glenfarclas distillery, will oversee distillation. The first releases will appear in 2016.
Down south, in the Scottish Borders, Bladnoch distillery will finally have a neighbor in the Annandale distillery. This Lowland distillery will produce both peated and unpeated whisky. While the site has a capacity of 500,000 liters of spirit annually they will begin by producing 250,000 liters of spirit. The hope is to operate as a tourist attraction long before the matured whisky is ready for sale.
Finally, in the western Highlands, independent bottlers, Adelphi, are launching a distillery in Ardnamurchan (pronounced as it looks, ard-na-mur-can), an unspoiled and remote peninsula served by a single track road. The distillery will be the Scottish mainland’s most westerly, beating Oban distillery by a few rolls of a cask (this is an approximate measurement, I hasten to add). Plans are to produce 184,000 liters of spirit annually, with 70% of that being produced from peated barley. Adelphi have no plans to release their whisky before the end of 2019.
While these three distilleries are looking to come online (run their first spirit) in 2013 it has been announced in the last month that funding has been secured for two more distilleries in Scotland. Independent bottlers Wemyss have invested £3 million (approx. $4.8 million) in the Kingsbarns distillery just outside St Andrews on Scotland’s east coast. Meanwhile two investors have pledged £1.5 million (approx $2.4 million) to the £10 million (approx $16 million) project to put a distillery on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides.
Lest we forget that Scotland has already witnessed the birth of three completely independent distilleries since the turn of the 21st century. Kilchoman on the island of Islay have been producing spirit since 2006, Abhainn Dearg (ave-en der-egg or Red River) distillery on the Isle of Lewis have been distilling since 2008, and the world waits patiently while the owners of Daftmill distillery, located in the heart of Fife, decide when they will launch their mature stock that turns eight years old in 2013.
Nor should we forget the expanding worlds of Diageo, who brought Roseisle in Morayshire online in 2009, and William Grant & Sons, who built their Ailsa Bay distillery in Ayrshire within the grounds of the established Girvan distillery in 2008. Both of these distilleries are designed to produce multiple styles of spirit to satisfy the needs of blenders.
Nor, finally, should we forget distilleries who were reborn this century. That list includes Glenglassaugh just outside Portsoy (mothballed in 1986), Glengyle in Campbeltown (closed in 1925), and Bruichladdich on Islay (mothballed in 1995 and again in 1998 and recently sold to Remy Cointreu for £58 million – approx. $93 million).
It’s a golden age, to be sure.