An Aberdeenshire brewery has transformed its site into a Scotch whisky distillery, becoming the first to open in the Royal Deeside area for around 200 years.
Brewery conversion: Twin River distillery is situated within Aberdeenshire’s Deeside brewery
Twin River distillery, part of Deeside Brewery in Banchory, is combining traditional brewing practices with American craft distilling techniques to produce a range of whiskies, gins and grain spirits that are ‘different from the mainstream’.
The site laid down its first casks of single malt whisky in July, but has plans to transfer the entire operation to a larger two-acre site in the town.
The team, led by IT entrepreneur Michael Bain and brand manager Ryan Rhodes, who own Dusk bar in Aberdeen, plan to commence the build of a new destination distillery, brewery, visitor centre and taproom in 2018.
To fund the move, Twin River is seeking to raise £1.4 million through the pre-sale of casks.
Twin River’s first whisky, double-distilled on one small 500-litre square iStill, has been brewed from a chocolate malt mash, and filled into 55-litre virgin oak octaves ‘to mature the whisky quickly’. It will be released in 2020 when it’s three years old.
The operation intends to also produce an aged rye spirit ‘matured quickly’ in 200-litre ex-rye whiskey casks from the US.
Twin River will use a ‘secret’ maturation technique similar to Blue Ridge Distilling Co. in North Carolina, US, which inserts additional toasted cuts of oak into the cask.
Rhodes, a former bartender, said: ‘We’re using different maturation techniques so we can release our rye spirit as quickly as possible. It shouldn’t feel as young as it is.
‘With our cocktail background we wanted to focus on rye whiskey – there’s a big insurgence of rye but bartenders don’t see the necessity to age it for three years. So we’re looking at what they’re doing in America and will be targeting that market with our Scotch rye.’
Twin River has appointed Andrew Tulloch, a former electrician and keen home brewer as its head distiller.
The distillery launched its first product earlier this month, a prototype of Twin River Gin, at Sessions, an outdoor craft gin and beer festival in Aberdeen.
Royal Lochnagar was the last distillery to open in Royal Deeside, in 1823.
DEESIDE DISTILLERY TO RELOCATE TO £8M HOME
Deeside distillery in Banchory is selling 88 of only 100 whisky casks it will ever make, before closing the site and building a new, £8 million distillery nearby.
The distillery – formerly known as Twin River – currently forms part of Deeside Brewery in Lochton of Leys, but will close later this year as part of plans to move to larger premises in a business park in Hill of Banchory.
In 2017 it became the first whisky distillery to open in Royal Deeside for around 200 years, and has since been experimenting with its signature single malt style.
It has so far produced a number of experimental 55-litre octave casks, none of which will be for sale.
Instead, in February this year Deeside began filling the distillery’s single malt spirit into ex-Bourbon and ex-Sherry casks, 88 of which will be sold to help finance the build of the new distillery.
The remaining 12 casks will be matured for at least 10 years before being bottled.
Owners Mike Bain and Liam Pennycook have already agreed on a site in a nearby business park at which to build a new distillery capable of producing up to one million litres of spirit per year.
Bain said the current brewery and distillery, situated in a farm steading complex, was no longer ‘fit for purpose’.
‘We’ve been in our current site for 5-6 years now, but even as a working brewery we’re struggling for space with cask storage,’ he said.
‘So we’re moving to a completely new site which we’re calling Burn o’ Bennie, as with SWA [Scotch Whisky Association] rules we can’t take the distillery name with us.
‘The old distillery will close and become a ghost distillery, which will only have ever made 100 casks.’
Distiller Pennycook will only produce 100 casks of Deeside single malt
Deeside’s 88 Founders’ Casks are now being offered for sale for £7,500 for a 200-litre ex-Bourbon barrel, and £10,000 for a 250-litre ex-oloroso Sherry hogshead.
The price includes storage for ’10 years or longer’, first allocation on any special bottlings released by the distillery, and an invitation to the opening of Burn o’ Bennie and Deeside whisky’s 2029 launch party.
Pennycook said: ‘For whisky investors to be able to purchase whisky from the first new distillery in the region in almost 200 years is a great achievement for us.
‘With our plans for a new site under way, the new distillery is moving forward quickly making this batch even more exclusive as there will be no further production following our move.
‘We are certain, even at this early stage, that we have created something special with our future single malt.’
Deeside has appointed Anderson Anderson & Brown to advise on raising the investment needed to build the new distillery.
The distillery will cease operation once 100 casks have been filled with new make spirit. Its equipment will then be moved to Burn o’ Bennie to recommence production on a smaller, adjacent site until the new distillery and visitor centre has been built.
As well as single malt, Deeside distillery also produces Devil’s Point Scottish rum and Still River gin using a pair of square iStills.
It has also produced a small batch of rye whisky, which will be released in 2020 as a three-year-old
One of Scotland’s new wave of experimental ‘craft’ whisky distilleries, Deeside is one of just a few Scottish whisky distilleries to be established by a brewery. Its cosy home within Banchory’s Deeside Brewery is fitting – the distillery draws on its brewers’ experience with varying barley roasts and alternative grains including rye and maize.
Since opening in 2017, Deeside has spent 18 months experimenting with its single malt spirit recipe, filling the liquid into 55-litre octave casks – which will never be released for sale.
With an impending move to larger premises Deeside’s production lifespan is on a timer. Just 100 casks of single malt – fermented in the brewery’s existing tanks and distilled in a 600-litre copper pot still – will be produced, with just 88 casks released for sale.
Head distiller Liam Pennycook uses a mixture of pale, crystal and chocolate malts to produce a ‘biscuity and earthy’ single malt spirit.
At the same time, Deeside is also producing Scottish rum, rye and a ‘Bourbon-style’ whisky using a mashbill containing at least 51% corn, both of which are distilled in a square iStill.
Deeside Brewery was founded in Banchory in 2012 by Michael Bain, a former IT entrepreneur-turned-bar owner (of Dusk in Aberdeen).
The team installed distilling equipment in an extension to the brewery in 2017, and by July had laid down casks of its first single malt in a range of experimental 55-litre octaves.
In October 2018 the distillery installed a 600-litre copper pot still and in February 2019 began running distillations of a single malt spirit that’s being matured in a mixture of ex-Bourbon barrels and ex-Sherry butts.
While the extension offers limited space for the modest set-up, Deeside (formerly known as Twin River distillery) has plans to build a larger brewery and distillery on a 2.2-acre plot in Banchory, which will incorporate a visitor centre, restaurant and taproom. To fund the move, Deeside is seeking to raise £8 million through an investment drive and the pre-sale of casks.
Deeside plans to only produce 100 casks at its current distillery, before closing the plant and moving the operation to its new premises, which will be named Burn o’ Bennie.
Of the 100 casks produced, 88 are being sold to the public, while 12 will be retained by Deeside for bottling once the spirit reaches at least 10 years of age.
CAPACITY (MLPA) i
FERMENTATION TIME i
FILLING STRENGTH i
GRIST WEIGHT (T) i
HEAT SOURCE i
Steam with jacket
MALT SPECIFICATION i
Pale Malt/ Chocolate Malt/ Crystal Medium Malt
MALT SUPPLIER i
MASH TUN TYPE i
NEW-MAKE STRENGTH i
SINGLE MALT PERCENTAGE i
50% single malt, 50% gin and other projects
SPIRIT STILL CHARGE (L) i
SPIRIT STILL SHAPE i
SPIRIT STILL SIZE (L) i
4 (two copper for single malt, two iStills for other spirits)
WASH STILL CHARGE (L) i
WASH STILL SHAPE i
WASH STILL SIZE (L) i
WASHBACK CHARGE (L) i
WASHBACK SIZE (L) i
WASHBACK TYPE i
Stainless steel conical
WATER SOURCE i
Local water (filtered), and Deeside water for cutting/finishing