Lerwick Distillery: Shetland set for its first whisky distillery

The idea began more than a decade ago when friends Martin Watt, Caroline MacIntyre and Calum Miller came up with the idea to open the first distillery on Shetland.

But now the idea is nearer completion, with Lerwick Distillery to open its doors later this year.

The three friends found a site for the distillery in 2022 and have been planning the build and eventual opening ever since.

The initial spirit will be called Haad Still – a traditional Shetland dialect phrase for hold still – before it matures.

Scottish law dictates that a spirit cannot legally be called a whisky until it has matured for at least three years and one day, though buyers will be able to buy the spirit before then.

The company plans to also run tours of the distillery for the tourism market.

initial spirit will be called Haad Still – a traditional Shetland dialect phrase for hold still.

Ian Millar, who has worked in the industry for more than 50 years, has been appointed master distiller. Martin and Calum, have established backgrounds in chartered accountancy and architecture, and Caroline has extensive experience in hospitality and sales.

The distillery has been supported by Shetland Islands Council, via a start-up grant, and Business Gateway, which provides free business support in Scotland.

Martin and Callum’s initial funding target was to raise £1m, but they far exceeded this, and have been able to secure premises that are four times the original size they had planned.

‘The support that we received from Business Gateway has been excellent. Diana was able to point out things that we had missed in our business plan, and gave us access to great contacts to help us develop,’ Martin said.

Tours of the distillery will also be on offer.

‘If it hadn’t been for the funding Business Gateway signposted us to, we would not have raised enough share capital to be able to expand the business so quickly.

‘The £4,000 funding resulted in an extra £682,000 share capital investment that really wasn’t expected. We truly couldn’t have done this without Business Gateway.’

Diana Abernethy, Business Gateway adviser said: ‘Shetland is the last area of the UK without a distillery, so to be able to help Martin, Caroline and Calum reach the goal of being the first distillery on the island has been fantastic.

‘It’s an exciting brand and journey they’re embarking on and will give such a boost to tourism in the area and the local economy.’

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