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Business / Whisky distillery plans take shape

PLANS for a £3.5 million whisky distillery in Lerwick are moving at pace – with planning approval expected in the coming days.

Meanwhile images of what the interior and exterior of the proposed Lerwick Distillery building, on Market Street, could look like have been released.

And the team have announced that the experienced Ian Millar – who has spent more than 50 years in the industry – is signed up to become the master distiller.

News of what could be Shetland’s first whisky distillery was revealed in September.

It would be located in a former joinery workshop sitting between Market Street and the car park above the bus station, and would create single malts.

The expectation is that the distillery could create up to 14 jobs within three years of opening.

Lerwick Distillery is the creation of principal directors and shareholders Martin Watt, Caroline MacIntyre and Calum Miller.

They said it is their “vision for the distillery to produce a distinctive superior dram which reflects Shetlands unique culture”.

The team claims it will be “pure Shetland gold in a glass”, with the Scots/Norse culture providing inspiration and local water springs set to be used too.

Miller and Watt are Shetlanders, with MacIntyre a life-long friend of Watt’s having met initially at Bell’s Brae Primary School in the early 1980s when her father, Iain MacIntyre, was manager of the Bank of Scotland.

Meanwhile master distiller Ian Miller has worked with WM Grant, Blair Athol and Balvenie, then spent ten years as brand ambassador for Glenfiddich.

The distillery team said with change of use planning permission almost secured, “we can now start the design phase of the distillery with LEF as our lead consultant, which is expected to take six months”.

“We therefore expect to be ordering our equipment towards the end of Q2 2023 and be fully commissioned for the first whisky fills in November 2023,” a spokesperson said.

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The expected total cost of £3.5 million will be raised through a combination of founding shareholders funds, an “Angel’s Share” issue to investors and whisky lovers, grant funding and forward sale of founder’s casks.

The costings include feasibility studies that will explore achieving a net zero carbon footprint within five years of opening.

“We also expect to have up to six distillers employed, some of whom will have the opportunity for sponsored higher education at Heriot-Watt University,” the spokesperson said.

People can register their interest in the project via its website.

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