First spirit flows at Benbecula Distillery

First spirit flows at Benbecula Distillery

Founded by Angus MacMillan, the new Outer Hebridean distillery is using a 130-year-old recipe for its spirit


Image: Founder Angus MacMillan at Benbecula Distillery

News | 13 Jun 2024

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Benbecula Distillery has completed its first spirit run. The new Outer Hebridean distillery was founded by Angus MacMillan of MacMillan Spirits.


The multi-million-pound distillery was developed on the site of a disused salmon farming plant, and is made distinctive by the glass lighthouse-style extension which houses a copper pot still. Construction and development was kept local where possible; the distillery used local company MacInnes Brothers as its main building contractor and sourced its distilling equipment from the Highlands and islands.


Ingredients have also been sourced locally, such as the bere barley grown on MacMillan’s croft which is fertilised with Scottish seaweed, and the local peat and heather used in the production process.


MacMillan said: “After quite a journey over the past few years, it’s fantastic to see the first spirit flowing at Benbecula Distillery.


“There’s nowhere quite like Benbecula and we are proud to be able to play a part in sustaining our island, creating new, skilled jobs and producing a single malt whisky which will capture the essence of this unique place.”

The Benbecula team outside the distillery

The distillery’s spirit is rooted in history. MacMillan’s research led him to the writings of distilling historian Alfred Barnard, and a 19th-century recipe he recorded. The first spirit flow from the distillery sees the recipe revived by master distiller Brendan McCarron.


Providing further insight to the process, MacMillan shared “Our malt will be kilned over fires which we lay with peat and foraged heather; a revival of a rare malting technique completely unique in Scotland today and from a recipe last used by distilleries such as Glen Ord and Highland Park in the 19th century.


“Brendan has adapted and developed this process to create a smooth, gentle smokiness and sweet floral character in our spirit. Under his guidance, we will also be creating a variety of flavour styles.”


McCarron’s 20 years in the whisky industry have seen him as master distiller for Distill, responsible for brands including Bunnahabhain and Tobermory, and head of maturing whisky stocks under Dr Bill Lumsden at Glenmorangie.


McCarron said: “The spirit produced at Benbecula will be classically maritime in style; smoky on the nose, with salty and sweetly peated notes. This will be achieved using light to medium peated malted barley, so that the smoke does not dominate and allows fruity and floral notes to shine through.


“Each year a special batch of heather peated bere barley will be produced, using a process that is both innovative and inspired by traditions of the island.”


Benbecula expects to produce approximately 350,000 litres of whisky every year, to be matured in bourbon and sherry casks. Gin and rum will also be available from the distillery.

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