Whisky distilling will return to Leith with the construction of a state of the art distillery in Edinburgh’s port district beside Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre and The Royal Yacht Britannia; the first purpose-built single malt distillery to be constructed in the capital for over a century.
Founded by Ian Stirling and Patrick Fletcher, who grew up together in the capital, the distillery will bring a distinctive, new approach to Scotch whisky production by focusing on fermentation; a key part of the production process that is rarely highlighted to consumers.
Ian, who was previously head of Off-Trade sales at the award-winning London merchant Roberson Wine, stated: ‘The first step to making whisky is making a beer and as any beer fan will know, there is a whole world of possibilities in that process. We want to play with those possibilities, ferment something special, and then distil a delicious lowland whisky.’
The Port of Leith Distillery’s modern approach will be reflected in the design and construction of the £5m building, which is intended to create an exciting new landmark for Leith and includes plans for an adjacent floating restaurant and bar. The area was once the centre of Edinburgh’s vibrant whisky industry, but consolidation and market downturns led most producers to retreat to rural locations by the later part of the 20th century. Many of the bonded warehouses that lined the shore still exist today as converted flats.
Accessibility is a key priority for the company, who intend to open the distillery not only to tourists, but also students and local enthusiasts alike. Ian explained: ‘Patrick and I took our first step down this road by purchasing a still and playing with it. We’d like to give people the chance to do the same thing, but in a slightly safer environment than Patrick’s back garden.’
The distillery plans to eventually produce 400,000 lpa (litres pure alcohol) per year. The company has secured investment to apply for planning consents and building warrant. Significant investment has already been committed for the construction phase, pending the successful outcome of the planning process.
Ian said: ‘It took a long time to find the ideal site. Ocean Terminal bought into our vision when we had no money and only a plan. By agreeing to this land deal, they’ve made an enormous contribution to our business and, we hope, to Leith.’
Threesixty Architecture have been appointed to design the building.
Progress can be followed at www.leithdistillery.com