HUNTER LAING TO BUILD ISLAY DISTILLERY
Independent whisky bottler Hunter Laing & Co has revealed plans to build an £8 million malt whisky distillery on Islay.
The Hunter Laing distillery will be situated on the coast of Ardnahoe.
Designed to produce liquid that ‘appeals to the Islay whisky lover’, the distillery will be situated in Ardnahoe on the north east coast of the island.
A request for planning permission has been submitted to Argyll and Bute Council to develop the project on a greenfield site currently owned by Islay Estates. Should planning permission be approved, the land will be transferred to Hunter Laing.
The distillery will be Islay's first new build in a decade, following the opening of Kilchoman in 2005.
The company, which bottles brands including Old & Rare and Hepburn’s Choice, said its decision to build a distillery on Islay was influenced by the surge in demand for single malts from the island in recent years.
Stewart Laing, managing director of Hunter Laing, said: ‘While the established distilleries on the island have been increasing production, there is obvious room for yet further expansion in output as discerning drinkers the world over are charmed by the rich, smoke-filled flavours that have become such an integral part of the island’s style of whisky.
‘The new facility is being designed to create a particular style of spirit that we know from our experience of selling whisky in 65 countries around the world will appeal to the Islay whisky lover.’
Since creating the company in May 2013, Hunter Laing & Co has been searching for an ideal site to build its own distillery.
Pending approvals, work is expected to start on the build in May 2016, with the distillery due to start production by the end of 2017 when distilling operations, warehousing and a visitors’ centre complete with café, shop and tasting room will also be established.
A second building phase will follow to expand distilling operations and build further warehousing on the site.
Andrew Laing, director, said: ‘We have shown formidable growth in the last two years and the time is now right for us to invest for the future. While this is our family’s first foray into distilling, my father’s 50-year record of blending quality products of high demand and our three generations of expertise in the whisky industry ensures we enter this venture with strong confidence.’
Lord Margadale, chairman of Islay Estates which owns around 55,000 acres of the island of Islay, said the project would ‘contribute considerably’ to Islay’s economy through the provision of jobs and demand for Islay barley.
‘Islay is a beautiful, tranquil and fertile island that is famed for its distinctive whisky; this is an exciting opportunity to build on this reputation and to help secure a strong economic future for the Island,’ he said.
ISLAY’S ARDNAHOE DISTILLERY GETS GREEN LIGHT
Hunter Laing & Co has been given the go-ahead to build Ardnahoe, the ninth whisky distillery on Islay.
Ardnahoe will join Islay's eight existing distilleries in 2018
Following approval from Argyll and Bute Council, work will begin on building the £8m distillery and visitor centre in November, with Ardnahoe’s first spirit expected in early 2018.
The distillery, which will be situated on four acres of land on Islay’s north-east coast near Port Askaig, will be capable of producing 500,000 litres of spirit in a typical Islay style, although only 200,000 litres will be produced in its first year.
Ardnahoe will be the first distillery owned by independent bottler Hunter Laing & Co., which owns brands such as Old Malt Cask, Old & Rare and Hepburn’s Choice.
Andrew Laing, director of Hunter Laing & Co, said: ‘Since starting our company we’ve seen a huge demand for Islay whisky around the world, and now is the perfect time to make the progression from blenders and bottlers to distillers, and secure our own supply of Islay single malt.’
The Edinburgh-based company has been searching for a site for its first distillery since its founding in 2013, and announced its intentions to build Ardnahoe in January this year.
Scott Laing, also a director at Hunter Laing & Co, said Islay was the obvious choice, not only because the group has experienced increased demand for its malts from the Hebridean island, but because his and Andrew’s father and Hunter Laing managing director, Stewart Laing, had once spent time on the island at Bruichladdich distillery.
‘He has always had a natural affinity with the island and we’re all fans of the peaty style of whisky it is renowned for,’ Scott Laing said.
Ardnahoe will be the first distillery built on Islay since Kilchoman in 2005.
JIM MCEWAN REVEALS ARDNAHOE DISTILLERY PLANS
Islay’s ninth distillery is on track to be open to visitors by the time the Islay Festival rolls around in May 2018.
Today Ardnahoe distillery’s stills began their journey from Speyside Copperworks in Moray across to Islay’s northeastern coast where they will be installed in a stillhouse overlooking the Sound of Islay and the Paps of Jura.
It’s a big moment for Ardnahoe owner Hunter Laing & Co., and production director Jim McEwan, the former Bruichladdich master distiller who came out of retirement to oversee the distillery build.
Scotchwhisky.com caught up with McEwan at the Ardnahoe site during last year’s Islay Festival.
Here he reveals plans for Islay’s first worm tubs, Ardnahoe’s signature style plus the (eventual) release of a single malt called the Ardnahoe Whisper.
ARDNAHOE WHISKY DISTILLERY OPENS ON ISLAY
Ardnahoe distillery has officially opened on Islay as the Hebridean island’s ninth whisky producer, and the first to feature worm tubs.
Ardnahoe distillery has now officially opened to visitors
The £14 million distillery and visitor centre, owned by independent bottler Hunter Laing, is the first to be built on the Scottish island since 2005.
Situated on Islay’s north east coast, close to Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila distilleries and with panoramic views across the Sound of Islay to Jura, Ardnahoe is expected to attract 20,000 visitors each year.
Although the distillery began producing spirit in October 2018, and filled its first cask on 9 November, it officially opens today (12 April), with special guests from across the island and Hunter Laing business expected to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Ardnahoe was first granted planning permission in September 2016, with work starting on the site in the same year.
It has created 25 full and part-time jobs across the distillery and visitor centre.
The family-owned company, led by Stewart Laing and his sons Andrew and Scott, selected Islay as the location for its first whisky distillery due to Stewart’s family connections to the island, as well as the growing demand for Islay whisky.
Stewart said: ‘Since working as a teenager at Bruichladdich distillery over 50 years ago, I have had a huge affinity with Islay and its malt whiskies.
‘When we decided to build our own distillery, there was only one possible location
With two copper pot stills – which feature the longest lyne arms in Scotland – and four wooden washbacks, Ardnahoe is set up to produce a fruity, creamy and heavily peated spirit, which will mature in a combination of first-fill ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry casks.
The spirit was created in partnership with ex-Bruichladdich master distiller Jim McEwan, who has since transitioned into an ambassadorial role with the distillery.
Hunter Laing export director Andrew Laing described Ardnahoe’s style as ‘a new take on a classical Islay whisky’.
He said: ‘In a few years, if a lover of Islay whisky wants to try something new, then they can try something that’s been distilled very slowly through worm tub condensers.
‘As Jim McEwan was our master distiller we’d expect it to have some DNA of whisky he’s created in the past, but we expect it to be unique to us.’
Ardnahoe is the only Islay distillery to use worm tub condensers
While the core spirit will be made using malted barley peated to 40ppm, the distillery will also start production of an unpeated spirit later this year.
The whisky will need to mature for at least three years before it can be bottled, although Andrew Laing said the distillery’s first release won’t be rushed onto shelves.
‘We’re quite fortunate in terms of our business plan that we don’t need to release a whisky at any particular point,’ he said.
‘We’re going to be completely led by the quality but we believe that because we’re producing the spirit very carefully and putting it into good casks, it won’t be an inordinate length of time.’
In the meantime, the distillery offers visitors a range of tours, café facilities and bar, as well as a shop featuring a large range of Hunter Laing whiskies and a ‘fill-your-own’ station.