Plans afoot to add 12th distillery to Islay whisky trail

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Though it may seem like 11 whisky distilleries is plenty for the small Hebridean isle of Islay, plans are being drawn up for a twelfth.

A Proposal for Application Notice has been submitted to Argyll and Bute Council for Islay’s newest distillery and visitor centre, named after the island’s oldest name ‘ili’, at Gearach Farm west of Port Charlotte.

‘Islay is already known for its distilleries,’ explains the new distillery’s website: ‘ili will not just serve as a continuation of this legacy, but a development of it: ili’s product will be carbon-neutral, with the creation of high-quality jobs and apprenticeships.

‘An economic analysis undertaken by BiGGAR Economics indicates that by its 10th year of operation, ili could contribute 21 jobs within Islay and 53 jobs across Scotland. The construction phase is estimated to support six years of employment on Islay.

‘The proposed distillery will have a target capacity of 200,000 litres per annum, highlighting the smaller, more bespoke approach. For comparison, this is a similar size to that of Kilchoman pre-expansion.

‘ili is the brainchild of Bertram Nesselrode and Scott McLellan. Scott is a local farmer and Bertram’s family has owned Gearach Farm for many years.

‘Seeking a sustainable future for Gearach Farm, they turned to Islay’s existing importance as the home of high-quality whisky, and saw an opportunity to enhance this legacy with the addition of a new, contemporary, sustainable distillery.

‘The name of the enterprise is ili, the oldest name for Islay. It is inspired by the ancient standing stones found on the farm and in other places on the island and beyond. Physically, the built form of the distillery will also represent a point of difference: it will respect the built vernacular of the island, and complement the natural form of its spectacular surroundings.’

The plans, sited within the Rinns of Islay Site of Special Scientific Interest, include renewable energy infrastructure: a hydrogen plant, solar panels, and a wind turbine up to 76.5 metres high to blade tip. ‘Consideration is being given to abstracting water directly from Loch Gearach situated close to the proposed distillery site or from a borehole located on site,’ the website says.

‘Two buildings are envisaged, reads the council’s report of handling: ‘North of the Port Charlotte to Kilchiaran road towards Loch Gearach is the distillery, cafe, shop and tour building. South of the road is a building to replace an existing cattle shed for grain storage, distilling by-product management and barrel warehousing.’

A virtual exhibition is currently open at iliwhisky-consultation.co.uk, where you can also find details of a second online consultation from 3-7pm on November 4. The closing dates for comments will be November 18.

Islay’s nine working distilleries are Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Kilchoman, Caol Ila, Bunnahabhain, Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardnahoe, and planning applications have been approved for two more: a revived Port Ellen Distillery, and Elixir Distillers at Farkin Cottage.