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New plans for a Shetland whisky distillery

| Written by Hans J Marter

Whisky entrepreneur Stuart Nickerson. Whisky entrepreneur Stuart Nickerson. SHETLAND is set to get its own whisky distillery after all.

Five years after Blackwood’s ill-fated attempts to build Scotland’s most northerly distillery, whisky entrepreneur Stuart Nickerson has now made his own plans public.

The Shetland Distillery Company has just lodged a planning application with Shetland Islands Council to set up a “boutique distillery” in one of the ex-RAF buildings at Saxa Vord, in Unst.

Nickerson, who has been working in the Scottish whisky industry for 30 years, said he hoped his latest project could be operational as early as next year.

The company, which will operate one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland, is owned by Nickerson and the Strang family, who bought the Saxa Vord complex from the RAF in 2007.

The venture will be housed in the empty part of what was locally known as the Motor & Transport section, next to Sonny Priest’s Valhalla micro brewery.

Nickerson, from Portknockie in Moray, described his plans as the “perfect opportunity” and added: “Shetland is one of the last locations in Scotland that doesn’t have a distillery and it is ripe to have one.

“It’s the right time to do this. There is a lot of interest in Scotch whisky everywhere, particularly in single malts.”

Well connected within the industry, Nickerson headed a team that in 2008 revived the mothballed Glenglassaugh distillery and brought it back into production.

He said because of his work in the industry his many contacts would help the Shetland distillery make its mark in the world of whisky.

The company is in discussion with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and other potential investors, Nickerson said.

Initial plans include a small distilling area (annual output 30,000 litres of absolute alcohol), a 400 square metre warehouse, as well as areas for cask preparation, a small bottling line, offices and a possible visitor reception area.

Nickerson said he was confident that there would a lot of interest in his plans from whisky enthusiasts worldwide, but doubted that they would make their way to the UK’s most northerly islands in huge numbers.

“There is no visitor centre planned at this stage,” he said. “But we will have some accommodation for visitors, because there will be interest.

“I expect the first whisky fanatics knocking on our door within 12 months of its opening.”

Plans to build Scotland’s most northerly whisky distillery by Caroline Whitfield of Blackwood Distillers came to nothing during the last decade, when the company failed to attract the necessary funding for their widely promoted plans.