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Benbecula Distillery Starts Distillation

Benbecula distillery

Benbecula distillery in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland announced on June 13 that it had commenced distillation. The multi-million-pound project received planning permission to convert an old salmon-farming facility into a distillery in 2022.

The project, led by owner Angus M MacMillan, was inspired by an old 19th-century recipe documented by whisky historian Alfred Barnard, who published his book The Whisky Distilleries of The United Kingdom in 1887.

The distillery uses locally grown bere barley and aims to produce 350,000 litres of whisky annually with a still housed in a 'lighthouse' style stillroom. The barley comes from MacMillan's own crop as well as from other local farmers and is fertilised with seaweed, local peat, and heather.

“Our malt will be kilned over fires which we lay with peat and foraged heather; a revival of a rare malting technique completely unique in Scotland today and from a recipe last used by distilleries such as Glen Ord and Highland Park in the 19th century," said MacMillan.

To bring his vision to life, MacMillan sought the expertise of master distiller Brendan McCannon. McCannon has previously been involved with Oban distillery and Distell Group's three distilleries: Bunnahabhain, Deanston, and Tobermory. He also worked at the Glenmorangie Company, where he served as the head of maturing whisky stocks and closely collaborated with Dr Bill Lumsden.

Brendan McCarron, one of the best-known names in modern distilling, has, we believe, created something very special, making the most of the good things Benbecula has to offer," said MacMillan.

"Brendan has adapted and developed this process to create a smooth, gentle smokiness and sweet floral character in our spirit. Under his guidance, we will also be creating a variety of flavour styles.

The spirit produced at Benbecula will be classically maritime in style, smoky on the nose, with salty and sweetly peated notes. This will be achieved using light to medium peated malted barley so that the smoke does not dominate and allows fruity and floral notes to shine through."

The distillery will primarily mature its whiskies in ex-Bourbon and sherry casks.

Benbecula distillery starts distilling whisky

Images by Benbecula / Organic Architects - Angus A MacMillan

Each year, a special batch of heather-peated bere barley will be distilled. In addition to whisky, Benbecula will produce gin and offer the company's rum to visitors at the distillery.

The distillery was constructed with £12.5 million (US$17.3m) in funding, £2.8m (US$3.2m) of which was provided by the Scottish government's economic and community development agency, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Benbecula distillery

Image by Organic Architects - MacMillan describes the distillery as a ‘new landmark’ on the island’s rolling landscape


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