Isle of Arran Distillers’ new Lagg distillery has officially started production, having filled its first cask of maturing spirit earlier this month.
Lagg distillery in final stages of construction
Lagging behind: Although distilling has already begun, construction at Lagg is still in its final stages
The distillery, located on Arran’s southern tip near the village of Lagg, recorded its first spirit cut on 19 March and officially filled its first cask on 10 April.
Cask #1 is a Sherry butt filled with Lagg’s heavily peated spirit measured at 50ppm, at a strength of 63.5% abv.
The Sherried single malt will eventually be bottled and presented to members of the Lagg Cask Society – a club reserved for those who have purchased a cask of Lagg’s maturing whisky for £6,000.
Lagg master distiller James MacTaggart said: ‘It’s incredibly exciting to be taking the very first steps in producing what will eventually be a magnificent Lagg whisky, something truly unique to anything we’ve produced previously.’
The single malt is expected to mature into a ‘rich, earthy and smoky’ whisky, which will be ‘very different in character to what the distillers currently produce at the original distillery in Lochranza’, which is based on the island’s northernmost point.
Originally scheduled to open to the public in 2018, construction work is still ongoing at Lagg, which is now expected to open to visitors early summertime.
By next year, footfall across both the Lagg and Lochranza sites is expected to exceed 200,000 visitors
While Arran’s classic whisky style is unpeated, the distillery at Lochranza distils a small amount of peated malt every year for its Machrie Moor expression. In opening Lagg distillery on the south side of the island, Isle of Arran Distillers will shift all production of peated whisky to its new site, a distillery that will be dedicated to the exploration of peat.
Lagg single malt itself will be a heavily peated style, made using barley with a phenol content of 50ppm. While all barley will be malted on the mainland, the peat used to dry the barley will be sourced from all across Scotland, perhaps even the world, as Lagg explores the impact of peat terroir on whisky flavour.
Experimentation won’t stop there – Lagg will work with various yeast strains and barley varieties as it ‘plays around’ with different aspects of the production process. Despite its focus on innovation, Lagg will be a sizeable operation, capable of producing 500,000 litres of spirit each year.
With 140 apple trees already planted on the surrounding estate, Lagg will also produce its own cider and apple brandy, rather than follow the rest of the ‘craft’ Scottish distilling movement and produce gin.
Before Arran distillery commenced production in 1995, there hadn’t been a legal distillery on the Hebridean island since 1837. While Isle of Arran Distillers’ first distillery came to life toward the end of a downturn for the Scotch industry, its second is being realised in a boom period.
In 2017, some 22 years after Arran distillery opened at Lochranza on the north side of the island, groundwork began at Lagg in the south.
Phase one saw the immediate build of three new warehouses to provide maturation facilities for both distilleries, while construction of the new site began in November 2017.
Lagg distillery eventually took its first spirit cut on 19 March 2019 at 14.35pm, and filled its first cask on 10 April, a Sherry butt which will be reserved exclusively for members of the Lagg Cask Society.
Construction is still ongoing at the distillery, and the visitor centre is not expected to open until summer 2019.