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TORABHAIG DISTILLERY, Skye

Torabhaig is another of the traditional farm steading-turned distillery projects cropping up across Scotland in recent years, though its output is significantly larger than many of its peers.

Skye’s second distillery is configured to produce a traditional island-style malt whisky – medium-weight and medium-peated with a long fermentation in wooden washbacks and plenty of copper interaction providing a fruit-forward spirit.

Every drop of its spirit will be earmarked for bottling as a single malt to begin with, though expect to see some siphoned off for blending further down the line.

Sir Iain Noble, the man who founded Noble Grossart, Scotland’s first modern merchant bank, moved to the Isle of Skye in 1972. He purchased 20,000 acres of land, including a hotel at Isle Ornsay, which had been part of Lord Macdonald’s estate.

Noble – who founded independent blender and bottler Pràban na Linne (Gaelic Whiskies) in 1976 – planned to convert a 19th century listed farm steading at Torabhaig into a distillery. He’d obtained planning permission for the project as early as 2002, though sadly passed away in 2010 before his plans could be realised.

Around the time of his death, Mossburn Distillers, a subsidiary of Dutch drinks group Marussia Beverages BV, was also seeking a site on the island to build its own distillery. While the group hadn’t previously considered the renovation and preservation of a historic building for its project, Noble’s Torabhaig farm steading proved the perfect location.

Mossburn set to work renovating the property, which had become little more than a ruin, in 2013. The steading’s infrastructure took three years to rebuild, while a bespoke removable slate roof was designed to allow access to the two stills for repairs.

Whisky production is due to commence at the distillery in early 2017, though a small visitor’s centre complete with café and retail shop will open to the public from July 2017.

TORABHAIG FACTS
CAPACITY (MLPA) i
0.5
CONDENSER TYPE i
Shell and tube
FERMENTATION TIME i
90 hours
FILLING STRENGTH i
64% abv
GRIST WEIGHT (T) i
1.5
HEAT SOURCE i
Steam
MALT SPECIFICATION i
50ppm
MALT SUPPLIER i
Simpson’s
MASH TUN TYPE i
Semi-lauter
NEW-MAKE STRENGTH i
72% abv
SINGLE MALT PERCENTAGE i
100% at opening
SPIRIT STILL SHAPE i
Bulb
SPIRIT STILL SIZE (L) i
5,000
STILLS i
2
WAREHOUSING i
90% palletised; 10% dunnage
WASH STILL SHAPE i
Bulb
WASH STILL SIZE (L) i
8,000
WASHBACK SIZE (L) i
8,000
WASHBACK TYPE i
Douglas Fir
WASHBACKS i
8
WATER SOURCE i
Allt Gleann Thorabhaig and the Allt Breacach
WORT CLARITY i
Clear
YEAST TYPE i
Dried
OWNERS
Marussia Beverages logo
PARENT COMPANY
Marussia Beverages
CURRENT OWNER
Mossburn Distillers



TORABHAIG DISTILLERY
ISLANDS SINGLE MALT SCOTCH WHISKY
Torabhaig is another of the traditional farm steading-turned distillery projects cropping up across Scotland in recent years, though its output is significantly larger than many of its peers.

Skye’s second distillery is configured to produce a traditional island-style malt whisky – medium-weight and medium-peated with a long fermentation in wooden washbacks and plenty of copper interaction providing a fruit-forward spirit.

Every drop of its spirit will be earmarked for bottling as a single malt to begin with, though expect to see some siphoned off for blending further down the line.

Sir Iain Noble, the man who founded Noble Grossart, Scotland’s first modern merchant bank, moved to the Isle of Skye in 1972. He purchased 20,000 acres of land, including a hotel at Isle Ornsay, which had been part of Lord Macdonald’s estate.

Noble – who founded independent blender and bottler Pràban na Linne (Gaelic Whiskies) in 1976 – planned to convert a 19th century listed farm steading at Torabhaig into a distillery. He’d obtained planning permission for the project as early as 2002, though sadly passed away in 2010 before his plans could be realised.

Around the time of his death, Mossburn Distillers, a subsidiary of Dutch drinks group Marussia Beverages BV, was also seeking a site on the island to build its own distillery. While the group hadn’t previously considered the renovation and preservation of a historic building for its project, Noble’s Torabhaig farm steading proved the perfect location.

Mossburn set to work renovating the property, which had become little more than a ruin, in 2013. The steading’s infrastructure took three years to rebuild, while a bespoke removable slate roof was designed to allow access to the two stills for repairs.

Whisky production is due to commence at the distillery in early 2017, though a small visitor’s centre complete with café and retail shop will open to the public from July 2017.

CAPACITY (MLPA) i
0.5
CONDENSER TYPE i
Shell and tube
FERMENTATION TIME i
90 hours
FILLING STRENGTH i
64% abv
GRIST WEIGHT (T) i
1.5
HEAT SOURCE i
Steam
MALT SPECIFICATION i
50ppm
MALT SUPPLIER i
Simpson’s
MASH TUN TYPE i
Semi-lauter
NEW-MAKE STRENGTH i
72% abv
SINGLE MALT PERCENTAGE i
100% at opening
SPIRIT STILL SHAPE i
Bulb
SPIRIT STILL SIZE (L) i
5,000
STILLS i
2
WAREHOUSING i
90% palletised; 10% dunnage
WASH STILL SHAPE i
Bulb
WASH STILL SIZE (L) i
8,000
WASHBACK SIZE (L) i
8,000
WASHBACK TYPE i
Douglas Fir
WASHBACKS i
8
WATER SOURCE i
Allt Gleann Thorabhaig and the Allt Breacach
WORT CLARITY i
Clear
YEAST TYPE i
Dried
OWNERS
Marussia Beverages logo
PARENT COMPANY
Marussia Beverages
CURRENT OWNER
Mossburn Distillers

Black Ship
BRAND
Blended Scotch whisky produced by Marussia Beverages that was named after a great Scottish warship.

Named after a giant Scottish warship – that was sold to the French after just two years of being built – Black Ship blended Scotch was introduced almost 450 years after its demise.

Available as a no-age-statement and five-year-old, Black Ship was a blend of ‘a good quantity’ of Highland and Island malt whiskies and grain whisky, described as being ‘smooth and mellow’ with a ‘touch of smokiness on the finish’.

Pitched as a ‘great mixer’, both expressions were bottled at 40% abv.

Blended Scotch
BLACK SHIP HISTORY
This modern-day blended Scotch was named after the Great Michael, also known as the Black Ship, the most famous Scottish battleship of the early 16th century. It was completed in 1512 having consumed every wood in Fife during construction, and was the largest warship in Europe – twice the size of her English contemporary, the Mary Rose.

However her size became her downfall, and The Black Ship soon proved too expensive to maintain. She was sold at a knockdown price to the French crown in 1514 (and quite possibly used under a French pseudonym to sink the Mary Rose in the Battle of the Solent).

In the 1990s, Dutch drinks group Marussia Beverages introduced Black Ship blended Scotch whisky alongside a handful of other blended Scotch brands.

In 2013 the company established Mossburn Distillers, which was tasked with overseeing the group’s plans to establish distilleries in Skye, the Borders and Japan.

As such, focus was centred on the new projects and Black Ship – along with Marussia’s other Scotch blends – was discontinued. That’s not to say it won’t resurface in the distant future.
Marussia Beverages

DISTILLER & BLENDER
Dutch producer and distributor of wine and spirits, and owner of the UK’s Mossburn Distillers.

MARUSSIA BEVERAGES
Based in Hoofddorp, Netherlands, Marussia Beverages BV is a producer and distributor of wines and spirits, with subsidiaries in the UK, US, Russia, France, Georgia and Ukraine. Its brands, which include Marmont vodka and the Black Ship blended Scotch, are distributed across 31 countries around the world.

Its UK subsidiary is also owner of Mossburn Distillers, the company behind Torabhaig distillery on Skye and two malt and grain distilleries in Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders. It also owns a malt distillery at the Asahi brewery in Japan.

Marussia Beverages BV is a holding company for privately owned Swedish group Haydn Holding AB.

MARUSSIA BEVERAGES HISTORY
Founded in 2005, Marussia Beverages BV gradually expanded to specialise in importing and distributing wine and spirits across the world. The company works closely with many independent distillers, covering all sectors of the spirits industry


WE ARE TORABHAIG
The Distillery at Torabhaig is the second ever licenced Single Malt Scotch Whisky distillery on the Isle of Skye. The Excise Act of 1823 first sanctioned legal whisky distilling in Scotland almost 200 years ago, with the first licence on Skye being granted not long thereafter, so one could say it was about time.

Single Malt Scotch Whisky is inextricably linked to its place of origin, perhaps more so than any other product. The water, the land, the climate, all play a role in the character of the whisky. All these factors are also vitally important in planning a new distillery. Simply put, you can’t just build a distillery anywhere.

Some time ago, the old farmstead at Torabhaig was identified as the perfect location for a small, traditional distillery. All the factors needed to make good, robust island whisky were in place, right down to the Allt Breacach, the burn that feeds us with purest island spring water. And all this in a stunning natural setting. We were also fortunate to start with a handsome, rugged building, rich in history and local lore. 200 years or so ago, the stone that forms this building was hauled up from the ruined castle in the bay, by horse and cart. Men toiled from dawn till dusk building this Steading which was to stand the test of time for the next 150 years or so until farming practices changed.

Our 19th century steading has now been fully restored to hold the gorgeous copper stills and traditional wooden washbacks, and should allow us to produce whisky here for the next two hundred years, we have even built in a roof we can remove so that in time the pot stills can be replaced without disturbing the old building again.

After a painstaking 4-year restoration and build, Torabhaig has been a fully operational Single Malt Scotch Whisky distillery since January 2017, the second ever on the Isle of Skye.

1630
CAISTEAL CAMUS CHANGES HANDS FOR THE LAST TIME
Caisteal Camus changes hands for the last time+
CIRCA 1760
TORABHAIG FARMSTEAD COMPLETED
Torabhaig Farmstead Completed+
CIRCA 1820
THE STEADING IS BUILT USING STONE FROM THE CASTLE
The Steading is Built Using Stone From The Castle+
2002
PLANNING PERMISSION IS GRANTED
Planning permission is granted+
2013
MOSSBURN'S RENOVATION PROJECT BEGINS
Mossburn+
2016
STILLS & WASHBACKS ARE INSTALLED AND COMMISIONED
Stills & Washbacks are installed and commisioned+
2017
SPIRIT FLOWS
Spirit Flows+
2020
TORABHAIG SINGLE MALT SCOTCH WHISKY IS BORN
Torabhaig Single Malt Scotch Whisky is Born+

ON MAKING WHISKY
It’s early days for us. While we’ve been in full production since January 2017, our whiskies are still taking shape. For a start they are not even whisky yet, three years is the minimum time the spirit must spend in cask before it is Scotch Whisky, and even then most would tell you that it’s a lot longer before a good Single Malt comes of age. So we feel we would be getting ahead of ourselves to start making claims about the whisky we are making, instead we can tell you about our thoughts on making whisky.

ON TIME
Without haste is the simplest statement to introduce how we approach whisky-making. Time is indeed a theme that runs deep in the making of good Scotch. From mashing to fermenting to distilling, every single stage of making spirit is entirely time critical, and invariably not hurrying will give a better result. As a rule, you push things along at the expense of depth and complexity, faster is rarely better.

Then comes maturing, which requires patience on a whole new level, but more on that subject later. Simply speaking, you can’t rush making good whisky.

ON GRAIN
One thing we like to think we do know about is barley, simply because many of our core team come from a background of working with grain, starting with our distillery manager who has been producing malting barley for more than 30 years, with barley going back in his family for generations. He’ll never own up to this himself, but his farm has a solid reputation as a dependable source of the highest quality malting barley, some of the finest in Scotland.

This is probably why we’re so picky about the grain we use and why we don’t just stick to one variety for all our whiskies, and why we go to such efforts to capture the clarity of the cereal notes that the finest malted barley can produce in the new-make spirit.

ON PEAT
We’re not giving anything away by saying we are making a peated Malt Whisky, simply walking past the distillery and sniffing the air will tell you that much. After that, things get more complicated though. We try and avoid getting too deep into claims about light or heavy peat, because there is so much more to it that can be captured in a linear chart or PPM values. There are many, many faces and moods to peat, all affected by how you mash, the water you use, how you ferment, the shape of the stills, where you cut… we could go on. And this is where there is a balance to be found, between strength and refinement, between elegance and robustness. Well-tempered peat is the best way we can express what we’re aiming for. Once you really start to study peated spirit, there’s a beguiling complexity that awaits, a seemingly endless depth to explore. That inimitable Scottish peat reek on fine spirit can seem so tangible and present, and yet so ephemeral and impossible to pin down and define.

And that’s one of the great things about making Malt Whisky, especially the peated sort, there’s always something to surprise you.

ON WOOD
Once the spirit is made it just needs to age in an oak barrel for a few years… except:

This is where things get very interesting indeed. Making good spirit is in fact only the first half of the story. Because such a large part of the character, smell and taste of a mature Malt Whisky comes from the wood it was aged in, what happens after distillation is every bit as crucial. The finest new-make spirit in the world will not make a good whisky if it’s aged in a poor cask, or even just in the wrong cask for that particular spirit.

So is whisky just all about the wood? No, of course not. Rather it’s an intricate dialogue between the spirit and the oak, in effect a series of complex and gradual chemical reactions that take place over the course of years. This is why getting the spirit into the right wood straight away is vital for keeping it on the right track towards becoming a well-rounded and balanced Single Malt with all the depth and complexity we look for, but also an opportunity to take the same spirit in different directions over the course of the next decade and really exploring the range of the distillery’s output. Variations on a theme, if you will. Because of this we have already laid our spirit down in several different types of cask including some specially made to our own specification, checking in regularly to see how it is evolving, which in turn informs what wood we use going forward.

If there is one simple truth about whisky-making, it’s that it’s a complex business. The deeper you look, the more depth you find. But then that’s probably why we love whisky in the first place.

FACTS & FIGURES

torabhaig distillery skyeMash tun: 1.5 tonnes of peated barley malt per mashWash still: 8000 litres capacity, first distillation to 26% alcoholWashbacks: 8 Douglas Fir fermenting vessels of 8000 litres capacity eachSpirit still: 5000 litres capacity, second distillation to 69% alcohol2 traditional copper pot stills, custom made by Forsyths of RothesThe distillery output is equivalent to 1.5 million bottles of Single Malt Scotch Whisk
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