Inverness' first new distillery in 130 years opens

Inverness' first new distillery in 130 years opens

The Highlands town, once a small whisky distilling hub, has welcomed the Uile-bheist distillery and brewery

News | 01 Mar 2023

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The first new distillery in Iverness in 130 years has officially opened its doors.

The Uile-bheist distillery and brewery – the first to open in the Highland city since 1892 – includes a low-carbon sustainability centre and a visitor centre which is hoped to attract 300,000 visitors annually.

Future phases of the £7.5 million building project will include a distilling 'campus', with increased production capacity and a bonded warehouse, plus a tap room, dedicated tasting and visitor spaces, and a retail facility.

Once a malting hub in Scotland, and home to distilleries including Glen Mhor and Millburn, Inverness has a long-standing history with the distilling and brewing industries. The team behind Uile-bheist (Gaelic for 'monster') hope to revive this tradition through their new distillery and brewery.

Bruce Smith (centre) with Victoria and Jon Erasmus outside the Uile-bheist distillery and brewery in Inverness

Jon Erasmus, the facility's owner, said: "Our scale is craft, not volume. Our clean energy process, using shallow water wells, has been described as exemplary."

"It’s great to bring whisky distilling and brewing back to the city, but we also wanted a high level of design specification throughout, from the stills to the dramming area to the tap room. If people have travelled from New York or Tokyo, or if they’ve seen a lot of other distilleries, we want them to come here and think: I really like what they’ve done, here."

Uile-bheist will be using locally grown barley to produce its single malt whisky. Water and energy for whisky production will come from the River Ness through a heating system which uses shallow water wells to fire heat pumps, and the distillery will generate some of its own electricity through rooftop solar panels. The low-carbon distilling and brewing equipment was developed by German coppersmith and brewing equipment supplier Kaspar Schulz.

The distillery is initially aiming to produce 200–300 casks of single malt whisky per year (ageing primarily in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry), rising to 500–600 once subsequent development phases are completed. Cask investment opportunities are available.

The company's master brewer Bruce Smith holds a Masters in brewing and distilling from Heriot-Watt University and has previously worked with Heineken and Innis and Gunn. Uile-bheist will be his first foray into whisky making.

"We are using an efficient set-up which effectively ‘shares’ the equipment up to a point in the initial process, with some subtle differences in recipe and process," Smith said. "With our whisky, we are looking to forge our own path. We are not going to bind ourselves to traditions of the 1800s. We want to be a little experimental. Basically, we will release the first whisky only when we are proud of it and feel it truly represents the brand."

Artwork by illustrator Ken Taylor at the new Uile-bheist distillery in Inverness

Uile-bheist enlised Melbourne-based illustrator Ken Taylor, who has worked with bands The Pixies and Pearl Jam, to design its 'monster' motif and a number of film-inspired posters for the site's tap room and tour space.

The distillery and brewery's full tour programme will commence from 1 April 2023.
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