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New Speyside Distillery: Cabrach will celebrate Scotland’s illicit whisky history: 7th September, 2017

Artists impression of the Cabrach distillery and heritage centre 2017

Artists’ impression of the Cabrach distillery and heritage centre showing the distillery to the left. Image: Annie Kenyon Architects Ltd

A new Speyside whisky distillery which uses historical methods of distilling and bottling is set to begin production in 2019, after securing planning consent from the Moray Council this week. 

Some 150 years after the last legal distillery closed in the Cabrach, a new Cabrach distillery to be operated along historical lines will be opened in the area. 

The Cabrach distillery will be located in this wild and remote area on the southern edge of Moray and in the heart of Speyside. Said to be one of the birthplaces of Scotch whisky, the Cabrach was famed for illicit stills and smuggling in years gone by. 

The plans include the distilling, maturation and bottling of a unique whisky, using the blueprint of an early 19th-century distillery and made with historical methods. 

Construction work is expected to begin next summer, with production getting underway in 2019 and the first bottling of mature whisky from the historic distillery made in 2024, with 150,000 bottles expected to be produced each year. 

All ingredients for the whisky will be sourced locally with water coming from natural springs located on the land surrounding the distillery. The whisky will be matured in the Cabrach in quarter casks and bottled on site. 

A share offer will be announced next year, giving supporters the chance to get involved at an early stage and own a small piece of whisky history. 

Sue Savege is executive director of the Cabrach Trust, which will transform the existing Inverharroch Farm into the visitor attraction with the aim of putting the Cabrach on the tourist map and marking its place in the story of Scotch whisky. 

“Now we have planning permission in place we are aiming to start work on site in the summer of 2018,” said Sue. “In the meantime, we are busy working on the final specification of the distillery, which will use historical methods, and conducting further research in partnership with the ICBD into the exact balance of process, ingredients and maturation, as it's crucial we get the flavour right for our very own Cabrach whisky. 

“The distillery and heritage centre are at the heart of our plans to regenerate the Cabrach and contribute to a sustainable future for this beautiful but remote part of Moray, which has seen a huge decline in population over the years. This is a major milestone for us and we are very grateful to the Moray Council, which has been extremely supportive of the plans, and to all those who have contributed to the project. We are looking forward to seeing the plans reach fruition for this important region in the story of Scotch whisky.” 

The distillery will be operated by the Cabrach Trust, with the aim of putting the Cabrach back on the whisky map and stamping its place in the earliest history of Scotch whisky production. 

Earlier this year, researchers commissioned by the Trust discovered the site of an illicit whisky bothy thought to date back to the early 19th-century, sheltered by a small crag and built into the side of the hill, offering smugglers a vantage point to keep an eye out for excise men on the nearby highway. 

Chairman and founder member of the Cabrach Trust, Grant Gordon, said: “The Cabrach has a long and colourful whisky distilling history. The Cabrach distillery will celebrate this rich birth right, telling the as-yet untold story of the early days of farm distilling and the smuggling which was rife in the area, while the historical distillery will reflect production methods that were used in the Cabrach at the dawn of the modern distilling era in the early 1800’s.  

In 1823, after a number of attempts by Government to put an end to illicit distilling and smuggling, a new Act of Parliament heralded in the era of commercial distilling. As a result, licenses were issued in the 1820s for three distilleries in the Cabrach at Lesmurdie, Tomnaven, and Buck Distillery at Blackmiddens. 

“The heritage centre which will be associated with the distillery will tell the story about illicit distilling and relate that to production, so visitors can learn about the history of illicit whisky and smuggling and at the same time, go and see an operating historical distillery.” 

The planned £5.3million distillery and heritage centre makes use of the existing traditional farm steadings at Inverharroch and has been designed by a team led by local architects, AKA Ltd, and interior designers, Surface ID.  

The distillery design team has been supported by a group of industry experts and Scottish whisky historians, Kieran German and Gregor Adamson. 

The historical distillery will be open to the public and the heritage centre will offer an engaging and informative experience, with a dedicated interpretation centre, a flexible performance and exhibition space and smuggling trails, designed to appeal to whisky enthusiasts, heritage lovers and children alike. 

The Cabrach Trust is a social enterprise and all profits generated by the distillery and heritage centre will be reinvested to further the Trust social aims of providing jobs and services to regenerate this remote highland community. 

  • The Trust needs to raise funds of £5.3million to develop the farm buildings and is seeking support for the fundraising campaign. A share offer will be announced in May 2018.

  • Please get in touch if you are interested by calling or emailing Sue Savege, Executive Director of The Cabrach Trust, on 0560 384 5996 or info@thecabrachdistillery.uk

  • Visit www.cabrachtrust.org for more information about the proposed historical distillery or follow the Cabrach Trust on Twitter and Facebook at @CabrachTrust

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