About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts. This will sometimes be accompanied by politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

ARDNAMURCHAN DISTILLERY VISIT - MAY 2014

New distilleries are popping up in Scotland like daffodils at springtime... well, actually not just in Scotland, but all around the world at the moment - everyone seems to want go get in to distilled spirits at the moment - and not just whisky...

Its no secret that distillers of scotch whisky these days are having golden days - so golden that they're able to sell all of their stock themselves and make the future for independent bottlers look a bit bleak. This is probably also why several independent bottlers have chose to buy or build distilleries themselves.

One of those bottlers that have done so and will go into production this summer is Ardnamurchan Distillery - owned by the indie bottler Adelphi.

We had an appointment on Tuesday May 6th to see the distillery, being aware its still a building site and not in production, but its always great to have a look behind the scenes.

Here's a look at the place and some data associated with it:

First of all, the distillery is located far from almost everything. It's only accessible by single track road (B8007) from either east or west. Coming from the east, you'll probably have come from Ft. William via the small Corran Ferry or from the west via ferry from Tobermory on the Isle of Mull across to Kilchoan on the Ardnamurchan peninsula.

The place you're looking for is called Glenbeg (link to Google Maps).
Please note that the satellite photo will not show the distillery buildings.

Ardnamurchan Distillery - Coming soon, May 6th 2014 © The Malt Desk 
Before I show you the site through some snapshots, lets have some details about the distillery.

These days there's always the talk about leaving a carbon footprint. This will be kept at a minimum at Ardnamurchan Distillery thanks to the main part of their energy coming from firing with wood chips - the first in Scotland to do so. This will reduce the need for transport of fuels on the narrow single track roads on the Ardnamurchan peninsula as the wood will be sourced locally from the estate on which the distillery is located. The distillery also has a small bio mass plant in place to clean all waste fluids and the output from that can be lead straight back into the wild without any impact.


Far left, the 2 floor warehouse, left pagoda/building has a malt floor and right pagoda/building the visitors centre
May 6th 2014 © The Malt Desk

The distillery will take its water from the hills behind it. It will come from 2 sources, one supplying the cooling water and the other the water for production. A small dam has been built up in the hills to ensure a constant flow, even in drier periods.

Around 50% of the malt will come from Fife and the other sourced as needed. The distillery has 4x15 tons malt bins on site and will also be doing some malting on site. Its been equipped with a 3 ton steep tank and 2x3 tons malting floor, which -quite unusual- has floor heating (also a first). The kiln will be able to dry the green malt with both warm air and peat.


The malt floor which has build-in floor heating, May 6th 2014 © The Malt Desk
In the distillery mash house you'll find a 2 ton semi-lauter mash tun and next to that 7 x 10.000 liter fermentation vessels - 4 wooden washbacks made from a Portuguese producer and 3 steel ones opposite those. The reason to put in 3 steel washbacks was simply a matter of lack of space.

The tun room, furthest the copper top mash tun, left and right the washbacks (not all shown) May 6th 2014 © The Malt Desk

Fermentation times, clear or cloudy wash, still charges etc.  (1 set of stills) and further the production details is not yet in final place. Trial runs will be done in early summer through the entire production process until the output is satisfactory. The annual production has previously been announced to be anywhere from 100.000-300.000 liters of spirit annually.


1 set of stills at Ardnamurchan Distillery, left the wash still, right the spirit still May 6th 2014 © The Malt Desk

The spirit safe, May 6th 2014 © The Malt Desk

The Ardnamurchan spirit will go into mainly ex-bourbon casks and will be stored on site in a 2 floor warehouse. To make space for the warehouse, the a layer of rocks behind the buildings had to be removed, which was very hard work for the diggers in spite of heavy machinery, but now its almost ready to have the first casks rolled into it.

What really struck me when visiting, was the very noticeable difference in climate inside the warehouse from the ground floor which has a traditional dunnage style earthen floor to the upper floor which was much warmer and seemed a lot more damp than downstairs. I wonder what this will do to the maturation of the casks stored up there...

2nd floor of the warehouse, May 6th 2014 © The Malt Desk
It was mentioned that, unlike whats been mentioned in the previously released distillery brochure, some spirit will actually be sold off to others. IMO, this makes perfectly good sense as Adelphi can probably trade off casks of their own spirit and get mature casks from other distilleries in return which they then can bottle and create a cash flow.

Then there's the visitors centre...
Upstairs will be offices and a conference room available to book and downstairs the general visitors entrance with a small sitting area. Its nice that the distillery will attract more visitors to the remote beautiful area Ardnamurchan is (its should not be missed) and also, of course, provide a boost to the local economy and bringing work places to the area as well.

Personally, I look forward to coming back when everything is up and running.

Upstairs in the visitors area where the future tours will end, centre door leads to the still room, May 6th 2014 © The Malt Desk
I hope you've enjoyed this small online tour of the Ardnamurchan Distillery and I hope it has also maybe inspired some of you to go there sometime. It's a lovely little distillery, built very much in modern style and it certainly has it charms. While you're there, be sure to also enjoy the fabulous settings on the peninsula - why not venture all the way out to Ardnamurchan Point - the most westerly mainland point in the UK...

Finally thanks to Mark Giesler for taking us around and Alex for setting it up. And best of luck with your Ardnamurchan adventure :-)

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