FIRST BORDERS DISTILLERY GETS GREEN LIGHT
Hawick is to be home to the first whisky distillery in the Scottish Borders in almost 200 years, after The Three Stills Company (TTSC) secured planning approval this week.
A former industrial site in Hawick will be transformed into a distillery and visitors' centre
The group announced last year that it had secured adequate funding from a group of private investors, led by Edinburgh-based Badenoch & Co., to support its plans.
With approval now granted by Scottish Borders Council, work will shortly begin on transforming a disused listed building on Commercial Road in Hawick town centre, into a £10 million distillery and visitors’ centre.
The council said the proposed plans to redevelop the listed buildings are ‘sympathetic and sensitive’.
‘The development is appropriate for this town centre site and would be in keeping with the mixed use nature of the area,’ it continued in a planning approval document.
‘The proposal would result in the creation of jobs and would attract visitors to the town, benefitting the local economy.’
TTSC, is led by CEO Tim Carton, project leader John Fordyce, commercial director Tony Roberts and director George Tait, all of whom are former William Grant & Sons employees.
On announcing the receipt of additional funding in November last year, Carton said: ‘The pressure on malt supply is ongoing and TTSC is well positioned to contribute to the next growth phase. We are delighted to have the support of such experienced and enterprising investors to help us realise our scheme.’
The Hawick distillery is on track to be the first in the Scottish Borders since 1837.
A further two companies have also revealed plans to build distilleries in the region, though neither have secured planning permission as yet.
R&B Distillers is seeking a suitable site in Peebles following a public vote for their preferred location for a distillery, while Mossburn Distillers is planning a malt and grain plant near Jedburgh.
The first Scotch whisky distillery to open in the Borders since 1837.
Borders is set up to produce a light, fragrant and floral style of malt whisky – a very typical Lowlands character.
Long fermentation using a cloudy wort gives the spirit a malty fruitiness, while distillation in large lampglass stills with plenty of copper contact will heighten its fruity and floral qualities. Maturation will take place in predominantly ex-Bourbon barrels, although a mix of Portuguese red wine and rum casks will be used.
The last legal distillery to operate in the Scottish Borders closed in 1837, leaving the region to experience something of a whisky drought for the past 180 years.
Now all of a sudden several planned projects have come along at once, all bidding to be the first to revive distilling in the region for almost two centuries. The first to open will be the aptly named Borders distillery, operated by new group The Three Stills Company.
Headed by four Scotch industry veterans, the company was founded in 2013 and planning permission granted in late 2015 to transform a former factory in Hawick into a £10 million malt whisky distillery with the capacity to produce up to 1.8m litres of spirit a year.
The team broke ground at the site in August 2016, with the distillery kicking to life at 10.11am on 6 March 2018.
As well as producing a single malt Scotch whisky, the distillery will also feature a carterhead still to create a Borders gin, featuring local botanicals.
A small visitor centre will open to the public on 1 May 2018.
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The Three Stills Company
SCOTCH WHISKY RETURNS TO THE BORDERS
You wait nearly two centuries for a distillery to open in the Borders, and then three threaten to spring up almost at the same time. But which will be the first to restore whisky-making to the area? Gavin D Smith checks out the runners and riders.
Distillery Lane sign in Kelso
The final vestige of the last Borders distillery in Kelso, which closed in 1837.
It has taken 46 years for the Scottish Borders to get its only rail link restored, following the infamous Beeching cuts of the 1960s. The revived line between Edinburgh Waverley and Tweedbank was officially opened by HM The Queen on 9 September 2015.
That is as nothing, however, compared to the time lapse regarding distilling. The last (legal) Borders whisky was made in Kelso in 1837, but now three separate projects are vying to remedy that situation.
Potentially the most ambitious in scope is planned for the site of the former Jedforest Hotel, five miles south of Jedburgh, and adjacent to the cross-border A68 trunk road. This project is in the hands of Mossburn Distillers Ltd, which is currently in the process of developing Torabhaig distillery on the Isle of Skye.
Mossburn is headed by chief executive Neil Mathieson, who established spirits importer Eaux de Vie in 1984. Eaux de Vie is now owned by Marussia Beverages BV, which in turn belongs to the Swedish investment company Haydn Holding AB.
Marussia operates vineyards in Europe and a brandy distillery in Eastern Europe, as well as working with Caribbean rum producers, so getting involved in Scotch whisky distilling seems a logical next step.
Mossburn’s Borders distilling venture is to be no bijou, ‘artisanal’ operation, however, as £35-40m has been earmarked for its creation, announced with great fanfare early in 2014.
Since then, things have gone rather quiet, as Mathieson explains. “We discovered difficulties with plant engineering as we scaled everything up. We had to re-plan, and we are now going for two separate distilleries on the same site: one containing column and pot stills to make grain and malt whisky, and a second one with smaller pot stills and hybrid stills. Both distilleries will produce malt, grain and neutral spirit.
“We hope to have the smaller of the two, containing pot and hybrid stills, up and running in 2018. Around the same time, we plan to relocate Mossburn Distillers’ offices to the site and the former Jedforest Hotel, which we have now completely renovated. Bonding and bottling to be done on site too.”
Mathieson adds: “We expect to start building the first distillery next year, with just a few planning issues still ongoing. It’s a major project in total, and we’re in no hurry. We really want to get it right. Stylistically, the two distilleries will probably not produce the same malt whisky, but overall we are looking to find a Borders style of single malt, probably lighter in character.”
Mossburn has a fully-funded 25-year business plan for its Borders distilling project, which means that there will be no sales of new-make spirit to generate income and no ‘founders’ casks’.
“The first limited release bottlings will probably be of five-year-old whisky before a standard 10 or 12[-year-old] appears,” says Mathieson. “This will depend on the flavour profile the team decides on, and the spirit’s development over the first few years.”
The Three Stills Company will transform this brownfield site in Hawick into a modern Lowlands-style Scotch whisky distillery.
Some 10 miles from Jedburgh, in the Teviotdale mill town of Hawick, a second Borders distilling project has recently achieved a crucial funding target, with a vacant property earmarked for its distillery.
The Three Stills Company (TTSC) was created in 2013 by four former directors of William Grant & Sons: George Tait, John Fordyce, Tim Carton and Tony Roberts. The former Turnbull & Scott heating systems premises on Hawick’s Commercial Road has been identified as the production site, with visitor facilities to be developed alongside it.
After hovering below the radar for some time, TTSC hit the local headlines in November 2015 when it announced that £10m of funding had been secured, with money coming from the Edinburgh investment company Badenoch & Co, owned by Malcolm Offord, from members of the Ballande family who have extensive commercial interests in France and Asia, and from Swiss investment group Drake Enterprises. Closer to home, the UK’s largest private landowner, the Duke of Buccleuch, has also become an investor.
Planning permission for the development will be sought in early 2016 and, according to project leader John Fordyce, it is hoped the distillery will be operational at some point during 2017, with gin and vodka being produced and marketed while the whisky matures towards release. TTSC already sells Clan Fraser blended Scotch whisky in a number of export markets.
Fordyce says of Hawick: “The town has a very proud legacy as the centre for textile production in Scotland, and we felt very strongly that we wanted to uphold this rich industrial tradition and bring back distilling to the region after such a long absence.”
In terms of likely spirit style, Fordyce says: “It will naturally be more Lowland style than Speyside style, slightly lighter, and more aromatic than you would perhaps get in the north.”
Alasdair Day is hard at work to establish two distilleries in Raasay and the Borders simultaneously.
Last but not least of the would-be Borders distilling trinity is R&B Distillers, headed by businessman Alasdair Day and financial backer Bill Dobbie, founder of web dating site Cupid. Day’s whisky heritage dates back to his great-grandfather Richard Day, who worked for a whisky blender in the Borders town of Coldstream back in 1895.
Day launched The Tweeddale Blend in 2009, and has subsequently added to his portfolio of whiskies, including a Borders Single Grain, launched in November 2015, while R&B Distillers was established to create distilleries on the small Hebridean island of Raasay and at an unspecified location in the Borders.
The Raasay project is expected to be completed during 2017 and, much as Mossburn Distillers plans to turn its attention to its Jedburgh venture once Torabhaig on Skye is up and running, so R&B will focus on the Borders once Raasay is on stream.
Having initially identified a former water mill in the village of Walkerburn, near Peebles, as a potential home for their Borders distillery, R&B then opened an online poll in which participants could vote for one of several locations, with the town of Peebles easily coming out on top.
“We launched the poll because we wanted to be clear that we do not yet have a site in the Borders and wanted to ask people where they thought a suitable location would be,” Day explains, adding that the Walkerburn site was a non-starter “due to the expectation of the landowners”.
The Borders distillery will be around the same size as Raasay, making about 94,000 litres of spirit per annum. And the style? “Lowland, light but with some sweetness and floral, cereal notes to reflect the gentle, green rolling hills, farmland and rivers of Borders would be good,” says Day.
So who will be first to restore whisky-making to the Borders? The smart money would probably be on Three Stills, with an existing property ready for conversion. But whoever wins the race, for the time being at least Borderers can now catch a train to visit other Scottish distilleries while they wait.
THIRD DISTILLERY PLANNED IN SCOTTISH BORDERS
A third company has joined the race to build the first distillery in the Scottish Borders for almost two centuries.
The Three Stills distillery Hawick
This Hawick brownfield site has been earmarked as the location for the Three Stills Company's first distillery.
The Three Stills Company (TTSC) intends to build a Scotch whisky distillery and visitors’ centre on a disused brownfield site in Hawick.
Having secured £10 million funding from a group of private investors led by Edinburgh-based investment company Badenoch & Co, TTSC will now seek to secure planning permission for the development in early 2016.
If successful, TTSC will join The Borders Distillery Company and Mossburn distillers in a race to build the region’s first distillery since 1837.
The group, which was founded in 2013, is headed by CEO Tim Carton, project leader John Fordyce, commercial director Tony Roberts and director George Tait, all of whom are former William Grant & Sons employees.
TTSC currently produces and exports Clan Fraser blended Scotch whisky from its headquarters in Edinburgh.
Fordyce said a ‘major factor’ in the decision to build a distillery in Hawick was the town’s proximity to natural resources and raw materials.
‘There is a plentiful supply of pure water which the mills have depended on for cashmere and tweed production,” he said.
‘It’s one of the reasons behind Hawick’s reputation for quality manufacturing. We also have on our doorstep what is undoubtedly Scotland’s most fertile barley-producing land.
‘The Scottish Borders Council and local community have been very supportive of our plan: we will be creating jobs in the local area by tapping into a skilled labour market and increasing tourism in the region through our visitor centre.’
Investors in the project also include France’s Ballande family, Drake Enterprises, and the Duke of Buccleuch, who owns nearby Bowhill House and Drumlanrig Castle.
CEO Tim Carton said the build of TTSC was perfectly timed to fulfil global demand for malt whisky.
‘Scotch has shown all the signs of long-term sustainable growth over the last 20 years,’ he said. ‘Malt Scotch is vital for blended Scotch, as well as for single and blended malts.
‘The pressure on malt supply is ongoing and TTSC is well positioned to contribute to the next growth phase. We are delighted to have the support of such experienced and enterprising investors to help us realise our scheme.’
The Scottish Borders has attracted interest from several developers as a region fit to build a Scotch whisky distillery.
Alasdair Day, founder of R&B Distillers, announced his intentions to build a distillery in Wakeburn in February 2014, while Mossburn Distillers, a subsidiary of Marussia Beverages, also has plans to build a grain and malt whisky plant near Jedburgh
R&B DISCONTINUES BORDERS GRAIN WHISKY
R&B Distillers has discontinued its Borders single grain whisky after postponing plans to build a distillery in the Scottish Borders.
Borders grain whisky discontinued
Different distillery: The single grain has been withdrawn to avoid confusion with the Borders distillery in Hawick
The blender and distiller, which operates the Isle of Raasay distillery, has further postponed plans to build a second distillery in Peebles.
The Borders single grain whisky was launched in 2015 as a precursor to the style of whisky its eventual distillery would produce.
However, while it still holds an ambition to build a site in the Borders, R&B Distillers has decided to ‘focus on our Raasay distillery in terms of projects just now’.
Chris Hoban, brand ambassador for R&B Distillers, said: ‘Eventually we hope to build in the Borders, but as this could be a wee bit in the future, we felt the Borders brand could cause confusion.’
In March 2018, The Three Stills Company opened its own Borders distillery in Hawick, returning Scotch whisky production to the region for the first time in 180 years.
R&B Distillers will now replace its Borders brand with a new, ‘easy drinking’ expression designed to ‘redefine perceptions’ of single grain.
The Tweeddale Grain of Truth, a no-age-statement whisky sourced from an unnamed distillery, has been matured in ex-Bourbon casks for an unspecified period of time and finished in ex-oloroso Sherry hogsheads for nine months.
The expression is designed to be easier to drink than Borders, being bottled at 46% abv rather than Borders’ 51% abv, although both are made with the same mash bill – 50% wheat and 50% malted barley, for a flavour inspired by American whiskies.
Hoban said: ‘We admire what whisky makers in the United States have done, and we felt the key to making a grain whisky with a lot of flavour was to focus on the mash bill: we decided to increase the barley and used wheat in the hope of bringing some spice to it.’
Easy-drinker: The Tweeddale Grain of Truth is described as young yet complex
Grain of Truth is designed to challenge perceptions of single grain by producing a ‘young, complex’ whisky without the associated harsh notes.
‘Many people consider younger whiskies, particularly younger grain whisky, to be overly harsh and lacking flavour,’ Hoban added.
‘By looking at the mash bill and by [Sherry] cask finishing, we have produced a younger grain whisky that has a good amount of flavour and complexity, without the harsh notes that younger whiskies sometimes have.’
The whisky is said to contain ‘rich and warming honey and orange notes’ on the nose and ‘a more complex flavour than typical grain whiskies’ on the palate, with ‘dark chocolate and Cognac’ flavours.
Priced at £49.99, the whisky is available in the UK as a new addition to R&B Distillers’ core range, and will be launched in the US and Germany later this year.
Hoban added: ‘As Tweeddale is our established brand, it felt better to grow the range with Tweeddale Grain of Truth.’
The Tweeddale brand was originally conceived when R&B Distillers co-founder Alasdair Day discovered his great-grandfather Richard Day’s Scotch whisky recipe book.
In 2009, Day ordered nine casks from the same nine distilleries his great-grandfather used in an attempt to replicate his original recipe, also titled the Tweeddale.
In 2015 the company held a public vote to decide the location of its new Borders distillery.
While Peebles was selected, R&B Distillers failed to establish a site in the area. Instead, work went ahead on building the Isle of Raasay distillery, which began production in 2017.
PUBLIC VOTE PEEBLES FOR BORDERS DISTILLERY
R&B Distillers is now considering building a distillery in Peebles after whisky enthusiasts voted for the town as their favourite Borders location.
R&B Distillers may build a distillery in Peebles
R&B Distillers asked the public to vote for their preferred location for a Borders distillery.
Earlier this summer the company asked the public to choose their preferred location for the Borders’ first distillery since 1837.
R&B claimed that ‘by crowd sourcing opinion on where a Borders distillery should be built, our ethos of uncommon provenance becomes not only about the geographical origin of the whisky, but also the social’.
Almost 60% of respondents voted for Peebles, the county town of the Tweedale Valley, as the area they’d like to see a new distillery built.
Coming a distant second was The Tweed Valley while Kelso came in third place.
R&B will now consider Peebles as a potential location for its Borders venture, although with two other separate plans for distilleries in the region the race is on as to which will be the first in almost 200 years.
Mossburn distillers, a subsidiary of Marussia Beverages, is planning a grain and malt whisky plant near Jedburgh, while The Three Stills Company is seeking planning permission to transform a disused brownfield site in Hawick into a malt distillery and visitors’ centre.
‘Exactly how and when the Borders distilling side of our R&B venture will unfold is developing in our minds already,’ the company said in a statement.
R&B is also currently awaiting planning permission for a distillery on the Isle of Raasay