In a few short weeks, the ‘first’ legal whisky distillery will open on the small Hebridean island of Raasay. The Isle of Raasay Distillery, owned by R&B Distillers, has promised to bring traditional Scottish craft to an unchartered whisky region.
Two copper pot stills sourced from Frilli in Tuscany will be expected to produce 150,000 bottles of Scotch whisky a year. But you’ll have to wait another three years before its first Raasay Scotch will be ready to drink.
A mere 14 miles in length, Raasay can be found just off the east coast of Skye. The island’s tiny population of 120 residents have watched eagerly as this disused Gothic villa hotel, Borodale House, has been turned into a distillery, complete with a visitor centre and Na Tùsairean Club members’ accommodation.
‘It is the location; an island off an island with complex geology, water and island climate with probably the best views from any distillery in Scotland, that makes Raasay ideal for our innovative Scotch whisky distillery,’ co-founder Alasdair Day said.
Day and co-founder Bill Dobbie have declared a long-term ambition of using all-local ingredients – water, peat and barley – to create a spirit that is a ‘true reflection of the uncommon terroir’.
In June, R&B Distillery began Barley-growing trails on the island to assess the possibility of growing and ripening barley suitable for whisky-making locally with farmers and crofters.
The distillery will be independently owned and operated, and is expected to generate employment for up to 10% of the island residents.
Raasay local Norman Gillies has already nabbed the role of distillery manager and will take up his position when construction is complete. Born and raised on Raasay, Gillies knows the site and surrounding area like no-one else after being involved in the distillery project from the early days, and working as site engineer and later ground foreman.
Distiller Iain Robertson has relocated to the island to join the team. A recent Heriot-Watt brewing honours graduate, Robertson is keen to put his education to good use and find new ways to ‘respectfully push the boundaries’ of the spirit.
Last, but certainly not least, master distiller Chris Anderson will join Robertson and Gillies for the inaugural five months to oversee the initial distillation. Anderson is the perfect pick, bringing experience from Dewars, United Distillery, Ardnamurchan and Kilchoman distilleries. Most recently, Anderson has been involved with the Lakes Distillery in Cumbria and the construction of neighbouring Torabhaig Distillery on the Isle of Skye.