Plans for a new distillery and visitor centre in Benbecula, which is intended to create 22 new jobs, have secured up to £1.99m from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
The proposed £12.5m distillery at Gramsdale includes pioneering and innovative low carbon technologies in the design, build and distillation process. The Uist Distilling Company is owned by South Uist businessman Angus A Macmillan and his son Angus E Macmillan. The company plans to produce single malt whisky, rum and gin, ‘with a Hebridean flavour’.
The distillery will include a visitor centre with catering specialising in local produce.
It is expected that many new jobs will be created both directly and indirectly by the project including 22 FTEs at the distillery over the next three years. It is hoped that production will start in early 2022.
HIE has previously supported a feasibility study for the project and islanders had the opportunity to see the plans in more detail during community drop-in sessions last year.
Angus A MacMillan, said: “The new distillery aims to be a champion of all things Hebridean and Scottish and will provide a huge boost to tourism in the area.
“We want to produce whisky, rum and gin that will put Benbecula and the Hebrides firmly on the whisky tourist trail, while introducing the products we make to a national and international clientele.
“We are delighted with the support we have had from HIE. Having a low carbon footprint is key to our plans and we are working with industry experts to design a spirit production process which is powered by renewable energy sources. This will lower the carbon output of the distillery and ensure we are at the forefront of the whisky industry’s move away from the use of fossil fuels.”
Joanna Peteranna, head of enterprise support at HIE's Outer Hebrides team, said: “This innovative project will bring much-needed high quality and secure jobs to Benbecula. The plans include green energy technology, which should future proof the business in terms of Scotland’s net zero targets.
“It will also add to the other distillery developments in the Outer Hebrides and will help establish a whisky trail through the islands, which would be attractive for visitors. This is a fantastic project that, comparing levels of population, would create the equivalent of 10,000 jobs in Glasgow. This will be a significant boost to the Outer Hebrides tourism experience.”
Prior to the onset of Covid-19, tourism had accounted for 10 per cent of the local economy and helped to sustain many rural businesses and communities across the islands. The value of the industry was on track to reach £74m by 2020 after income from the sector growing from £53m in 2014 to £65m in 2017.
With Scotland’s drive towards net zero carbon, directors have decided to future proof the business from the outset – saving money as well as carbon. The company’s capital investment includes £1.25m for an innovative green energy centre including a high temperature heat pump system which will provide hot water to the distillation process. The distillery will also focus on using sustainable organic production, using local ingredients such as peat, heather, seaweed and barley.