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Borders Distillery officially opens

The new Borders Distillery has officially opened, making it the first legal Scotch whisky producer in the region since 1837.

The Borders Distillery marks the return of whisky to the region for the first time in 180 years (photo: Keith Hunter)

Owned by the Three Stills Company and located in Hawick, Scotland, distillation commenced on 6 March before the doors were flung open to the public today (1 May).

CEO Tim Carton and three of his former colleagues at William Grant & Sons, John Fordyce, Tony Roberts and George Tait conceived plans for the distillery five years ago, and put the wheels in motion after raising £10 million from private investors. Plans for the distillery were approved in July 2016.

“We saw a great opportunity to rebuild the industry and put the Borders, as far as Scotch whisky’s concerned, back on the map,” explained Carton. “The world doesn’t really need another Highland malt and there are plenty of projects going on in the islands, but there was nothing from here.”

The distillery boasts two large sheds, which date back to 1888, and a Tudor Cotswold building, which was constructed by Hawick Urban Electric Company in 1903.

The Three Stills Company decided to preserve as much of the historical features of the building as it could during the redevelopment. The distillery features exposed rubble walls, while the original trusses, wooden sarking and aluminium batons through the mash and still halls have all be restored.

The distillery also houses a visitor centre and shop on the ground floor, with an entertaining/ meeting space on the first floor. An open-plan gallery offers a bar and lounge seating, as well as the Teviot Room.

In terms of production, the Borders Distillery is equipped with two wash stills, two spirit stills and a specially commissioned Carter Head still, made by Forsyths of Rothes. The distillery has the capacity to produce up to two million litres of pure alcohol annually.

The distillery boasts two wash stills, two spirit stills and a specially commissioned Carter Head still (photo: Keith Hunter)

It is expected the new site will create up to 19 jobs locally across the business.

Fellow director Fordyce added: “There were some very convincing arguments for us to look to the Scottish Borders for our distillery.

“The skilled labour market and textile manufacturing history, particularly in tweed and cashmere, were two big influencing factors, as was the ready availability of natural resources and raw materials.”

While the spirit destined for Scotch whisky will rest in wood for at least the next three years, The Three Stills Company is focussed on launching its William Kerr gin, named after the 19th-century Hawick-born plant hunter, later this year.

Despite the profusion of new brands and fears the industry may have passed ‘peak gin’, Carton said: “I think there’ll be a weeding out process, but those that can anchor their brands in real truths will survive.

“We make the base spirit ourselves, we have our own Carter Head still and we’ll eventually have control of our own Scottish botanicals, and as such we believe there are so many layers to our gin.”

The Three Stills Company already has two whisky brands for sale: blended Scotch whisky Clan Fraser, and blended malt Lower East Side.

The Three Stills Company faced stiff competition to become the Borders’ first distillery in 180 years from two other projects: The Borders Distilling Company and Mossburn Distillers.

Alasdair Day, founder of R&B Distillers, first revealed plans to build a new distillery in the Scottish Borders in February 2014.

Just a month later, Mossburn Distillers also announced plans to convert the Borders-based Jedforest Hotel into a distillery and visitor centre.

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