[22nd January update below – political responses] A family of whisky entrepreneurs – Andrew and Scott Laing with their father, Stewart – have today, 20th January 2016, revealed their plans for Islay’s first new distillery in a decade. The most recent – and eighth- is the hugely successful Kilchoman whose first three year bottling sold out. If approved, Ardnahoe will take the total of working distilleries on the island to nine.
The Laings have submitted an application to Argyll and Bute Council to build a new malt whisky distillery at Ardnahoe, on the North East coast of the island. Should permission be granted for the £8m project, land currently owned by Islay Estates will be transferred to the whisky company.
Since Hunter Laing & Co. began operating in May 2013, the highly successful independent bottler and blender has been investigating the opportunities for owning its own distillery.
After extensive work, the family pinpointed the four-acre site near Port Askaig as the only viable option to meet the needs for their expanding business. Subject to approvals, the new distillery is expected to see the first drop out of the stills by the end of 2017.
Director,Andrew Laing, says of the plan: ‘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.’
Hunte Laing & Co is an independent bottler and blender and distributes to 65 markets around the world in Europe, Asia, the Americas and Australasia. It owns a portfolio of much loved brands including Old Malt Cask, Old & Rare, Hepburn’s Choice and Sovereign. It reported pre-tax profits of £1.4m on a turnover of £6.4m for its last full year of trading [to 30 April 2015].
The Laing family, under the Hunter Laing & Co group, wholly own whisky business, Heathgreen Ltd – and the planning application for Ardnahoe has been submitted through the Heathgreen Ltd company.
Director, Scott Laing, says: ‘Our family has had a long affiliation with Islay and my father spent time in the early part of his career at Bruichladdich Distillery. The opportunity to bring fresh investment to the island, create jobs and provide a new chapter in Islay’s illustrious whisky-making history is tremendously exciting for all of us.’
The building of the distillery is planned in two phases:
- the first will see the establishment of distilling operations, warehousing and a visitor centre comprising of a café, tasting room and shop;
- the second will see an expansion of distilling operations and further warehousing.
Contractors for the build have been identified and will begin cutting turf in May 2016, pending approval. The distillery will create several full-time positions on the island, as well as a number of seasonal roles.
Lord Margadale, Chairman of Islay Estates, says: ‘We are thrilled to be working with Hunter Laing in the development of a new distillery on Islay. This project will contribute considerably to the island’s economy through the direct provision of jobs, it will also increase the demand for barley from Islay farmers and add to the attraction of Islay as a destination for the increasing number of followers of Scotch whisky around the world.
‘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.’
Managing Director, Stewart Laing, says: ‘The surge in demand for single malt Scotch whisky from Islay in recent years has been extraordinary.
‘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.’
The choice of a site near Port Askaig is a savvy one for Laings – this is the port with the most reliable all-weathers passenger and freight ferry route out of and into the island.
‘By building this distillery, we are fulfilling a long held dream.’
With the application now submitted to the council, a 21-day public consultation period will begin.
22nd January update: political responses
Jamie McGrigor, MSP for the Highlands & Islands, and Donald Cameron, Scottish Conservative Candidate for Argyll & Bute, have welcomed the news of Hunter Laing & Co’s planned £8m investment to establish a new malt whisky distillery at Ardnahoe.
Donald Cameron says: ‘Islay has a well-deserved world-wide reputation for its malt whisky and rightly attracts whisky enthusiasts from across the globe: ‘A new distillery has the potential to add to Islay’s standing and repute, as well as creating very welcome additional employment on the island and increasing its tourism offering through a new visitor centre.
‘I wish the developers well as they take forward these exciting plans.’
Jamie McGrigor, who is also a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Scotch Whisky, says: ‘This is very welcome news for Islay and shows the strength of the Islay brand as well as the Scotch Whisky sector more generally.
‘I look forward to the day when we can celebrate the launch of an Ardnahoe malt and am pleased to hear that there are also other plans in the offing for another new Islay distillery on Loch Indaal, just west of Bowmore.’
Note 1: The current eight working Islay distilleries are: Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Kilchoman, Lagavulin, Laphroaig. There are plans for the Gartbreck Distillery on the shores of the great bight of Loch Indall near Bowmore; and one at Port Charlotte. If these and Ardnahoe come it production, islay will be host to eleven distilleries.
Note 2: The photographs above, from the top, show:
- Andrew, Stewart and Scott Laing raising a glass to the enterprise
- CAD drawing of the proposed Ardnahow Distillery near Port Askaig in the Sound of Islay – and with the famous Paps of Jura on the skyline across the Sound.
- Scott, Stewart and Andrw Laing in the Boardroom