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Scotch Single Malt Whisky Library / The Collection > D

March 2016
The Dornoch Distillery Company has launched its own crowdfunding campaign to raise enough capital to begin converting a 135-year-old fire station into a distillery.

Simon and Phil Thompson plan to transform the Old Fire Station in Dornoch into a traditional Scotch whisky distillery.
Phil and Simon Thompson, directors of the family-owned Dornoch Castle Hotel in Sutherland, Highlands, intend to build a traditional, organic microdistillery within the Old Fire Station at the hotel.

The project has already received planning permission from Highland Council and work to transform the building is due to start imminently.

The brothers are using the platform to generate funding without resorting to bank loans or private equity, and provided there are no regulatory or build delays, expect the distillery to be operational by August 2016.

As part of the crowd funding campaign the Dornoch Distillery Company is offering five different levels of investment.

Investors that donate a minimum of £50 will be given a bottle of first release gin, an official Dornoch distillery t-shirt and be eligible for special offers exclusive to founders.

Those investing £2,000 – the top funding tier available – will get a Dornoch distillery octave cask (50 litres), a cask owner hoodie, a bottle of 5-year-old Dornoch single cask malt whisky, a bottle of the distillery’s first single malt at cask strength, and an opportunity to join the distillery’s experimental tasting panel, as well as other benefits.

Just 100 of the top-tier investment option, which includes an octave cask, will be made available.

Phil Thompson said: ‘We are looking for people to help us and support us with this project. It’s been a pretty heavy past 12 months, but we’re at a point where we’re ready to go.

‘We’ve put our own flat on the market and our own finances into this project. We are looking for people who genuinely feel passionate about old style whisky and also spirits who want to be involved in this project from the early stage.’

Once operational, Dornoch distillery will produce a traditional style of malt spirit made using heritage varieties of organic floor malted barley, brewers’ yeast, long fermentations in wooden washbacks made from oak, and direct-fired pot stills.

An additional 2,000-litre pot and column still will also be used to produce gin and white spirits using organic cereals and botanicals.

Simon Thompson said: ‘We’re trying to make a style of whisky which has long been extinct; a style that hasn’t existed since the 70s and before.

‘We’ve been looking at what we consider to be some of the best whiskies ever made, especially in the ‘60s, ‘50s, ‘40s, ‘30s, and attempting to not quite reverse engineer, but understand the principles of production that created those ranges of flavours. We think that’s something that can be achieved again.’

Dornoch single malt whisky will be matured in organic ex-Bourbon, rye and Sherry casks, and bottled at either cask strength or 46% abv without chill filtration or added caramel colour.

The distillery has the capacity to produce just 37,000 bottles of cask strength whisky per year.

August 2018
Dornoch distillery has launched a second crowdfunding campaign to finance a move to new, larger premises.

Dornoch has outgrown its current home in a 19th-century fire station
The Highland whisky and gin distillery intends to move its operations to the site of an old slaters’ yard located only 200 metres away from its current home in a former 135-year-old fire station in the grounds of the Dornoch Castle Hotel in Sutherland.

The move will enable the distillery to increase production of its single malt whisky and Thompson Brother’s Organic Highland Gin, as well as provide space for a new on-site shop and tasting room.

Phil Thompson, co-owner of Dornoch distillery, said: ‘We never anticipated just how much demand there would be. The expansion means we can meet that demand while still maintaining our ruthless dedication to old-style production methods and quality levels.’

Dornoch distillery creates a style of whisky that imitates the ‘distillate character, mouthfeel and tropical fruits’ of those made prior to the 1960s.

Simon Thompson, co-founder, said: ‘No one else is making this style of whisky any more, so we wanted to push the envelope and see if we could create a whisky which harks back to these extinct Scotch whisky characteristics.’

The new, larger distillery will be situated just 200 metres away from the existing site

The campaign is offering backers the chance to purchase one of 250 casks of maturing spirit by way of contribution:

A £2,000 contribution will net the backer an ex-Bourbon Octave cask, of which 180 are available.
A £2,400 contribution will get a 50-litre American oak oloroso Sherry-seasoned cask, of which 20 are available.
A £4,000 contribution will provide a 100-litre ex-Bourbon cask, of which 30 are available.
A £4,500 contribution will net the backer a 100-litre ex-Bourbon cask seasoned with oloroso Sherry, of which 20 are available.

The Thompson brothers launched their first crowdfunding campaign in March 2016, which financed the convertion of the disused fire station into a distillery.

Dornoch laid down its first casks of spirit in February 2017, before switching focus to produce its first batches of ‘experimental’ gin.

Work on the new site is expected to begin in October 2018.

Following a passion for single malt Scotch produced during the early 20th century, Simon and Philip Thompson’s Dornoch distillery is a hotbed for traditional practices. With a capacity of just 20,000 litres of spirit a year, the hand-operated distillery is one of the smallest in Scotland, which enables a tighter focus on running experimental batches using a variety of methods adopted by Scottish distilleries during the 1940s-60s.

Only organic, heritage varieties of barley are used, such as Plumage Archer and Maris Otter, floor malted to a precise specification at Warminster maltings. These alternative barley varieties, which are more expensive to grow and yield a lower amount of spirit than conventional strains, are used to generate an intensity of flavour in Dornoch’s whisky to complement long-term maturation.

Yeast strains are chosen for their slow, and less efficient conversion rates, allowing Dornoch to achieve fermentation times of up to 216 hours – quite possibly the longest in Scotland. The result is a fruity, complex flavour profile, which the Thompsons believe mirrors that of certain distilleries during their ‘golden years’. Again, at Dornoch flavour trumps yield.

Experimentation continues through to the maturation, which takes place in an insulated shipping container packed with earth to mimic the conditions of a dunnage warehouse.

While 90% of production will be dedicated to single malt whisky (a signature style hasn’t been decided yet), Dornoch will also distil its own ‘experimental’ gin, the botanicals for which will vary from batch to batch.

The original Dornoch Castle was built around the end of the 15th century, although the age of the oldest surviving part of the structure is unclear. It had been a gift from Bishop Robert Stewart to his brother-in-law, the Earl of Sutherland, in 1557, who was tasked with safeguarding the property for the Church from the swell of Lutherans in the Highlands. It never did pass back into the Church’s ownership again. The castle eventually passed to private ownership in 1922, and was renovated into a hotel in 1947.

Colin and Ros Thompson acquired the premises in 2000, and along with their sons, Simon and Philip, soon established a reputation for Dornoch Castle as a whisky hotel.

The brothers, who began working behind the family bar as soon as they were old enough, began collecting whisky and building up Dornoch’s now enviable collection. It was during their early years at Dornoch that the Thompson brothers fell in love with pre-1960s Scotch whisky. They began bottling their own expressions from sourced stocks – under the Simon & Philip Thompson label – and gradually developed the idea to establish their own distillery on the castle grounds.

In 2015 planning permission was granted to transform a former 19th century fire station on the grounds – which was simply being used for junk storage – into a small distillery. To bankroll the project, the brothers put their flat on the market and began crowdfunding, eventually raising enough to begin producing test runs before Christmas 2016.

Dornoch distillery laid down ‘Cask 0’ – a test run of single malt spirit – in February 2017, before briefly switching focus to producing its first batch of ‘experimental’ gin, which was released in UK retailers in June 2017.

30.000 Ltrs
168-216 Hours
63.5% abv
Direct gas firing
Floor malted, organic heritage varieties
Warminster floor maltings
Dunnage, in an insulated shipping container
European Oak
Mains via ceramic beaded filters
Brewers' yeast

Dornoch Distillery Company

Dornoch Distillery Company was initially established by brothers Simon and Philip Thompson as Black Isle Whisky Company, a Dornoch-based enterprise predominantly concerned with bottling whiskies and rums for third parties, as well as other ‘whisky-related odds and ends’.

Today the business continues to bottle some single malt whiskies and older rums, but also operates Dornoch distillery adjacent to the Dornoch Castle Hotel.

Dornoch Distillery Company was originally founded in 2013 as independent bottler Black Isle Whisky Company. The name was changed in 2015 when planning permission to transform an old 19th century fire station into a distillery was granted. Company founders Simon and Philip Thompson spent the next year raising finance for the project – which included selling their own flat – and in December 2016 Dornoch distillery was finally operational

Not content with establishing one of the World’s leading whisky bars in Dornoch, brothers Phil and Simon Thompson have upped their ambitions and started making their own whisky and gin on-site at Dornoch Castle Hotel, forming Dornoch’s first whisky distillery.

Thompson Bros at Dornoch Distillery was founded following a successful initial crowdfunding round in 2016 which saw 250 whisky lovers from all over the world eagerly put their hands in their pockets to secure hotly anticipated casks of new make spirit from Dornoch Distillery. A remarkably successful 2017 saw the team lay down casks of future single malt whisky and launch Thompson Brother’s Organic Highland Gin, available in 11 international markets.

The success of Thompson Bros Organic Highland Gin and the need for more production, storage and distilling space led to the brothers launching the second round of crowdfunding in summer 2018 with the aim of expanding into a larger more versatile site.

We hope you can join us on our journey.

Thompson Bros at Dornoch Distillery

The process starts with malted barley. We favour older floor malted heritage varieties, which we believe provide a higher degree of complexity in our spirit.
The malted barley is then milled into a grist composed of husks, grits and flour. The composition of which is very important to enable us to get an efficient extraction.
Next the milled grain is loaded into the Mash-tun along with hot water. During this stage the complex carbohydrates within the grain are converted into simple sugars. When this conversion is complete, we filter off the sugary ‘worts’ and chill it, ready for the next stage.
After mashing the spent grain is collected and provides local sheep with plenty of calories
We use a variety of yeast stains, propagated in house along with spent brewers yeast from local breweries.
The chilled worts are filled into our open top eastern European oak washbacks along with the yeast to begin converting the delicious sugars into alcohol. Our fermentations run for a minimum of 168hrs. A long fermentation allows a lot of bacterial activity to contribute even more deliciousness after the yeast finished its work. The result is called Wash.
Wash distillation
The Wash is then distilled into low wines. We don’t use anti-foam, so favour a low fill and a long slow distillation.
Spirit Distillation
Next the low wines are combined with the foreshots and feints from the previous spirit run, again, we favour a low fill and a long slow distillation. We select the heart of the spirit by sense, cutting out the early foreshots and later feints.
Our precious new make spirit is filled into a variety of casks including first fill bourbon, de-char/re-char and sherry as well as a selection of refill casks left over from our independent bottlings.

Ballot Information
With the success of our ballot system, used for Cask 001 and Bimber #167, we have expanded on the concept with an automated custom software program.  Only 1 bottle of cask 001 was sold by a crowdfunder/tier 1 person.  The idea is that your ballot status is more valuable than making some fast money so you might as well enjoy your whisky and not think about resell values.

The program was designed to:

Be spam resistant
Be bot resistant
Cut out flippers
Get whisky to drinkers and supporters
Get whisky to bars and clubs
Now with more tiers! We are now running 8 tiers and mandatory accounts. The lower the tier the greater the chances (1 – 8). The more we are able to verify our customers, the lower their tier. We will run ballots for 48 hours. You will not know your tier.

What to do.

Make an account on
Keep an eye out for emails from us, make sure we are exempt from spam filters and you have confirmed your subscription to our newsletter
Enter ballot (one entry per person/household)
If we have multiple Ballots available, you must check out ONE AT A TIME
How it works:

When you checkout with a ballot entry and enter your card details, Dornoch Distillery will place a “hold” on your account for the cost of the product.  Basically, our payment system holds the option to remove that amount from your account.  If you win the ballot, the amount is automatically removed from your account, if you do not win the ballot, the “hold” is released. When there is a hold on your account, you can not spend that money.  It may take several days for your bank to allow you access to that amount after we drop the hold. Please contact your bank if the money is not returned to your account.

How do I get even more verified?

We are manually adjusting the tiers of our customers, we won’t say how we do this or what tier you are in.  if you want to provide evidence to help us get you to a higher tier,  We’d love to see the following:

Be a good whisky person 😉
Send us pictures of you with your open/empty bottles of Thompson Bros/DD bottlings
No stuff about death or tragedy as a justification for getting whisky
Drink your whisky


We will keep track of who receives which bottle number from each batch via the ballot system (Dornoch Distillery bottlings). If your bottle is sold and we find out about it, you will be removed from the ballot system entirely. If we catch you flipping bottles, you will be dropped.

The fate of your bottles is your responsibility. If someone else uses a numbered bottle you bought via ballot to increase tier status, you are dropped from the ballot.

If something doesn’t pass the smell test, we reserve the right to adjust your tier or drop you. We have a number of safeguards in place and we have caught a lot of attempts to manipulate previous ballots. We go a bit overboard on this so I wouldn’t recommend trying your luck.


Crowdfunders, who were previously tier 1 (of 2) will start at a high tier.  You are initially top of the pile as tiers, but there is still a path to further improve your chances. It is helpful if your webshop account uses the same lead name/email address used to sign up for the crowdfunding campaign.

Bars and Clubs

We encourage our importers and distributors to supply good whisky bars.  Please get in touch if you need a contact for your region. If you have an account with us that is *only* for a bar or club, we will happily put you at a lower tier with a high chance of winning with the following conditions:

The won bottles are only used for the bar/club
We reserve the right to publicly publish your organisation as a winner
We reserve the right to write your organisation’s name on the label
Fair pricing
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