Today, Monday 13th June 2016, we commence our momentous endeavour – to build our Isle of Raasay Distillery, the first legal one on the island. With construction now underway, we plan to open, and begin production, in April 2017.
In February 2016, we received our planning permission from the Highland Council to bring the first legal distillery to the remote Isle of Raasay, where illicit distilling was once rife. The island’s striking Victorian villa and ex-hotel, Borodale House, has stood empty since 2006, but we will convert it into our distillery visitors’ centre and luxury members’ accommodation with adjacent Isle of Raasay distillery.
Designed by Olli Blair from ABIR Architects and Allen Associates, we’re expecting our independently owned and operated distillery to generate employment for up to 10% of the island’s 120 residents. Having subsequently secured grants for the distillery build from the FPMC (Food Processing Marketing and Co-Operation Grants Scheme), and the Highlands and Islands Enterprise, for the development of a visitor’s centre, construction for this long-anticipated project can at last commence!
While We Wait
Patience is imperative to the whisky business but we are satisfying our notorious impatience with Raasay-style whisky already on the shelves. In December 2015, we released the aptly named, Raasay While We Wait whisky, a lightly peated single malt offering a handcrafted tantalising impression of the calibre and flavour of whisky yet to come from our future Isle of Raasay Distillery.
The distillery on Raasay will be furnished with two copper pot stills from Frilli in Tuscany, thus we decided to finish Raasay While We Wait in Tuscan red wine casks, endowing the whisky with its distinctive soft heather hue. Its profile signifies the care and attention we’ll take to handcraft uncommon Scotch whisky with quality ingredients and a local water supply filtered through volcanic rock, on an island boasting some of Scotland’s most unique geology.
In May 2016, Raasay While We Wait was awarded its first international award, a bronze medal in the International Spirits Challenge (ISC), a tremendous accolade for such a young whisky and an exciting taster of things to come. With the distillery set to open and begin production in April 2017, the first single malt from Raasay will be bottled in 2020 and we predict production of 150,000 bottles of Scotch whisky per year.
Borodale House will be transformed into the Isle of Raasay Distillery visitor centre, which is projected to bring in 12,000 visitors to the island in the first year. Nestled below the magnificent Dùn Caan and with some of the best views of the Isle of Skye; uninterrupted sight of the Cuillin mountain range, Borodale House will offer an atmospheric escape for our Na Tùsairean Club members. Na Tùsairean is Scot Gaelic for ‘The Pioneers’, members are invited to join us on our whisky journey and watch the distilling process unfold. Members will own whisky from the first 100 casks distilled, and be able to enjoy the luxury members’ lounge and five members’ ensuite rooms – three with views towards Skye and two looking into the distillery itself.
Environmental concerns are always paramount when undergoing a construction project of this scale thus in 2015 we were required to carry out a host of wildlife surveys to ensure we would accommodate the island’s diverse wildlife. This revealed that the UK’s most North-Westerly population of Brown Long Eared bats, were nesting in the roof. We’ve now accommodated this colony in a new ‘Bat Hotel’, The Belfry, in the roof and bat boxes up in the trees to protect these precious creatures during, and after, the build.
Of our exciting news to be breaking ground on Raasay, our Co-founder Alasdair Day said “it has taken an enormous amount of effort and endeavour to get to this point and we are all aware of what we still have to achieve, however we are delighted that work has commenced on site. We are all full of excitement and anticipation for the future as we aim to be Scotland’s leading craft distiller”.
Now all that’s left to do is just a little more waiting, will you wait with us?