Islay’s new 12th whisky distillery approved

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Plans to build the Laggan Bay Brewery and Distillery and visitor centre at Glenegedale near Islay Airport have been approved by Argyll and Bute Council.

The applicants are Mackay Smith from Portnahaven and Donald MacKenzie from Port Charlotte, who founded The Islay Boys Ltd in 2012, headquartered in Bridgend, Islay.

The Islay Boys Ltd bought out Islay Ales Co Ltd – Islay’s only brewery – in July 2018, revamping the brewing styles and beer labels, retiled using local place names.

The business partners explain in a planning document: ‘The existing Islay Ales brewery at Islay Square has become too small and inadequate for expansion, so we have sought a new location to expand our business.

‘We have also been blending our Islay Boys selection of prize-winning whiskies since 2012, and see this as the right time for us to begin our own adventures in spirit distilling.

‘Islay is synonymous with whisky, but we will introduce our own gin and rum varieties to expand the depth and diversity of what Islay can offer.

‘We are proposing a stand-alone production hall with separate warehousing and a dedicated visitor centre and tap room to create Islay’s first combined craft brewery and distillery, which we believe will become a great additional asset to Islay, for tourism, local employment and developing Islay as a centre of excellence in beer and spirit production, not just whisky production.

‘The combined brewery and distillery will have the capacity to produce up to 5,000 hectolitres of beer per annum (this allows a quadrupling of capacity) and 150,000 litres of pure alcohol of whisky in a dual-use one tonne mash tun.

‘The site will distil peated spirit in a classic double distillation using traditional copper pot stills – a 5,000-litre wash still and a 3,600-litre spirit still. The site will also have a separate, innovative, multiple plate column still for rum and gin production.

‘We envisage this increase in capacity will require the recruitment of additional staff, growing from three to around 10 employees over time, supporting local jobs on Islay.’

There were no objections. The planning report concluded: ‘The proposal will not give rise to any material planning considerations which would support a recommendation other than approval of an application.’

A Proposal for Application Notice has also been submitted to Argyll and Bute Council for Islay’s 13th distillery and visitor centre, named after the island’s oldest name ‘ili’, at Gearach Farm west of Port Charlotte.