When I was visiting family in the Outer Hebrides at the end of September, I was grumbling to anyone that would listen that the boat which would get me there now departed from Mallaig, rather than my parent’s hometown of Oban. However, I should stop my grumbling, as our return journey along the Ardnamurchan peninsula meant we had the chance to swing by the new Ardnamurchan Distillery.
One of Scotland’s newest operations, Ardnamurchan Distillery is from independent bottlers Adelphi, who have a long whisky history. Loch Katrine Adelphi Distillery was built on the banks of the Clyde in 1826, and by 1886, was one of the largest distilleries in Scotland, with an annual output of over 500,000 gallons. But like most distilleries, it had mixed fortunes, with pot distilling ceasing on the site in 1907, with coffey distillation (for grain whisky) ending in 1932. The site was demolished in 1968.
In 1993, Jamie Walker revived the Adelphi name as an independent bottler. Thoughts to building a distillery started in 2007, with planning permission granted in 2012. However, Adelphi’s new distillery wasn’t to be located on the banks of the Clyde, but on the beautiful shores of Loch Sunart, with spirit starting to flow in 2014.
From the start, Ardnamurchan Distillery took the decision to put sustainability at its heart. All the power and heat requirements for the distillery come from local renewables – the river that provides the distillery with cooling water also powers hydro-electric generators, and the biomass boiler is fuelled by woodchip from the local forest. And it’s hoped that, in time, the draff from the distilling process could be used for this.
The eco theme continues with the wash backs, which came from an old cognac site. But there are limitations to Ardnamurchan Distillery’s rural location – the mash tun could only be 2.3m wide, as narrow bridges on the single track road meant nothing bigger could make it to the isolated spot.
Despite having the facilities to malt onsite, the team have chosen to buy their malt in, although they obviously have the option to start doing their own malting in the future. And the 50/50 mix between peated and unpeated malt should make for an interesting range for whiskies once they’ve finished maturing.
The team at Adelphi are clearly confident about the distillery’s future, as there are six additional warehouses currently being built on the site. However, no whisky will be released until the spirit reaches its seventh birthday in 2021.
Usually at this point, I’d tease another blog later in the week featuring the drams I tasted during my tour at Ardnamurchan. However, let’s say that I was treated well by the team at Ardnamurchan Distillery…and tasting new make spirit can blur your long-term memory.
Its isolated location means it’s a difficult distillery to just nip in to. But if you find yourself in the area, then be sure to pop your head in for a look at the future of the Scotch whisky industry.
If you want to find out more about Ardnamurchan Distillery and the tours available, then visit the distillery’s website.