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Stirling Distillery - Bringing The Craft of Whisky Making Back To Stirling

Updated: Mar 3

Stirlingshire, a historic county in Scotland, has a rich history of making whisky. This dates back to the late 1700s when the county's borders included the towns now known as Falkirk, Alloa and Cambus. The county once boasted around 70 distilleries, but only two were located in the city of Stirling: Craigend (1795-1825) and Stirling distillery, which operated from 1817 to 1852.


Closed and active distilleries in Stirling

Image by The Whisky Ardvark


Throughout the years, around 23 distilleries have produced whisky within the current borders of Stirlingshire. However, only two of these distilleries, Deanston and Glengoyne, survived until the turn of the millennium. In 2019, a small craft distillery was established in the city of Stirling, located in the shadow of Stirling Castle. They began running their still in October 2023 to produce whisky new make for the first time.



 

The New Stirling Distillery


Less than a mile from the old Stirling distillery site in Queenshaugh, a new distillery has brought whisky distilling back to Stirling after 171 years. The new venture is owned and operated by June and Cameron McCann, a lovely couple also known for establishing the Stirling Whisky Festival in 2012.


June and Cameron McCann Stirling whisky distillery

Image by Stirling Distillery


In 2015, the McCanns celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary by producing their first gin, which paved the way for their dream of distilling their own whisky.


The Stirling distillery opened its doors in 2019 and is located on the castle rock in a historic building called The Old Smiddy. Legend has it that the site was used by King James VI to stable his horses in the 1500s. The building itself dates back to 1888 and was fully renovated to house the smallest whisky distillery in Scotland. At the start of the whisky production in October 2023, it could produce a mere 10,000 litres of whisky a year, half of what the second-smallest distillery, Abhainn Dearg, produces annually. The distillery hopes to expand its capacity as the business grows.


Stirling whisky distillery

Image by Stirling Distillery



Stirling is a small craft distillery that employs 15 people, including permanent, seasonal, and contract staff. The distillery sources pre-milled barley from Simpsons in the Scottish Borders. The fermentation time varies between 72 to 96 hours, creating a malty and soft base for the spirit. The stillroom is home to one small 180-litre copper pot still, which produces double distilled new make once a week. The distillery promises to create a whisky faithful to the Lowland style by collecting a relatively small cut from the run.


As a lowland distillery we have a unique location position on the border between the highlands and lowlands. So, we are officially the ‘highest’ lowland distillery in Scotland. However, we are ensuring we maintain the Lowland traditions of a gentle new make spirit. Our whisky is soft and very malty, almost biscuit-like. - Cameron McCann

 

Stirling whisky distillery copper pot still

Images by Stirling Distillery


At The Whisky Ardvark, we had the pleasure of corresponding with Mr Cameron McCann and had a chance to sample the new make. Despite our policy against providing tasting notes, we made an exception.


The Whisky Ardvark Tasting Notes

Stirling Distillery / New Make Spirit / 63% / Tasted on 23.11.2023


Nose: Sweet oat/cereal cakes and zesty fruits with a light whiff of stewed apricots.

Taste: Delicate mouthfeel with a light and clean palate coloured by citrus, baked

bread and biscuits.

Finish: Relatively short and light with a lingering malty sensation. With the addition

of water, the spirit disappears quickly.

Conclusion: The distillation expertise is showcased in the clean, pure new make spirit

that is both smooth and highly drinkable. We are excited to explore how

this spirit will interact with various casks.



 

What the Future Holds


Stirling currently sources its water from the North Third Reservoir, a few miles from the distillery site. However, they are exploring the possibility of using the wells around the distillery. One is situated in the Castle, while the other is in a nearby pub called Settle Inn. The company is even considering drilling a borehole to access the water.


As distilleries increasingly focus on energy efficiency and sustainability, Mr McCann shared his thoughts.

We are looking at opportunities to minimise energy consumption within the building structure to enhance our energy performance and user comfort whilst also reducing energy costs and carbon emissions. We are also looking into sustainable packaging and growing our own botanicals onsite (for gin). All evolve as the business does.

The distillery has committed to bottling all its whiskies at 46% ABV or higher. The first single malt expression is due to be released in late 2026, followed by a limited edition set of six bottles that pays homage to King James VI. The VI Casks for King James set comprises six different types of casks - bourbon, sherry, port, rum, wine, and Madeira - which will be laid down in a traditional dunnage in sight of Stirling Castle. These limited sets will be released bi-annually, starting from 2027. The regular releases will be matured in ex-bourbon and sherry barrels, but there may be some occasional surprises in the future.


Stirling whisky distillery Casks of King James VI

Image by Stirling Distillery


Whisky enthusiasts who are eager to sample the creations of the McCanns can enjoy their independently bottled series, Sons of Scotland, which was launched in 2020. These single malts represent various regions of Scotland and are named in honour of closed Stirlingshire distilleries. There are four expressions available: The Cambusbarron, The Stoneywood, The Arngibbon, and The Cashly. Additionally, a wide range of Stirling gins can be found.


Stirling distillery Sons of Scotland

Image by Stirling Distillery - Sons of Scotland


Moreover, the distillery now offers private casks, ranging from 250-litre first-fill sherry to 55-litre Firkins. If you are interested in purchasing a cask, please visit www.stirlingdistillery.com/pages/cask-sales. To learn more about the distillery, visits, and updates, please visit www.stirlingdistillery.com.



 

If you are interested in the whisky history of Stirlingshire, please see the list of 68 distilleries that were once located in the old region of Stirlingshire in the link provided. This list may help you gain insight into the history of whisky production in this area.

distilleries in Stirlingshire closed and open

Image by The Whisky Ardvark




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