Plans for Islay’s 12th distillery lodged

Designs for Islay's twelfth distillery, at Gearach Farm near Port Charlotte.

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A planning application for a new carbon neutral whisky on the Rinns of Islay – the island’s twelfth – has been submitted to Argyll and Bute Council.

The proposed distillery at Gearach Farm, brainchild of islanders Scott McLellan and Bertram Nesselrode, seeks to provide a long-term and sustainable future for the existing farm operation, as well as enhance tourism and generate employment.

Under the brand ili, a name based on the oldest form of ‘Islay’, the distillery near Port Charlotte will have an identity based on the standing stones which dot the island’s landscape.

The distillery has a target capacity of 200,000 litres per annum, and it is anticipated the distillery would welcome an additional 2,000 visitors annually to Islay, with £1.2m added to the island’s economy.

It is also predicated that the distillery would create 23 jobs, including apprenticeships.

Bertram said: ‘We’re really excited to be bringing forward these proposals to create a bold, new, sustainable distillery on Islay.

‘The island has a rich heritage of whisky production, and ili would mark a milestone in this heritage – respecting Islay’s legacy while representing something innovative and contemporary.

‘We believe that Gearach Farm, with its rugged landscape, loch, and working traditions, would be the ideal place to make this new venture, and importantly we want to ensure that the whole of the island can benefit, through inward investment and job opportunities, along with our community benefit fund.’

Aware that the distillery will benefit from the natural capital and international reputation of Islay, the ili team has been seeking a way to ensure that the community can also directly benefit from the distillery.

A funding model, based on a community benefit fund, linked directly to the future operation of the distillery is proposed, with a commitment to contribute to a  community fund once the distillery is fully operational.

A spokesperson added: ‘In being carbon neutral in its operation, the ili team is acutely aware of the responsible role distilleries must take in tackling climate change.

‘A feasibility study into the lowest carbon and sustainable operation processes for the distillery has been undertaken, with the long-term aspiration that a range of innovative renewable energy processes, including solar and wind, will power the future operation.

‘Architecturally ili will fit seamlessly into the surrounding environment in a way that responds to the ancient built forms and local landscape.

‘Inside, the building will open up with large windows displaying beautiful views over the adjacent Gearach Loch.

‘Materials have been chosen to reflect a philosophy of ‘use natural, reduce and source locally’ helping to achieve the goal of net zero embodied carbon.

‘This includes the use of natural building materials where possible, such as locally sourced timber and stone and only using concrete / steel where a natural / low carbon solution is not suitable.’