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Benbecula Distillery begins whisky production

Scotland’s Benbecula Distillery has begun producing single malt whisky and aims to create 350,000 litres a year.

Owner Angus A MacMillan (pictured) based the whisky on a 130-year-old recipe

The distillery’s owner Angus A MacMillan discovered the recipe in the writings of 19th-century distilling historian Alfred Barnard, which is said to be 130 years old.

MacMillan has also called on the services of master distiller Brendan McCarron, who has previously worked at the Glenmorangie Company.

McCarron was also manager at Oban Distillery and master distiller with Distell, whose brands include Bunnahabhain, Deanston and Tobermory distilleries.

Ingredients for the whisky include bere barley – which is grown on MacMillan’s croft and other land nearby, and fertilised with seaweed from the shoreline – as well as local peat and heather.

McCarron said: “The spirit produced at Benbecula will be classically maritime in style: smoky on the nose, with salty and sweet peated notes.

“This will be achieved using light- to medium-peated malted barley, so that the smoke does not dominate and allows fruity and floral notes to shine through.

“Each year a special batch of heather-peated bere barley will be produced, using a process that is both innovative and inspired by traditions of the island.”

The distillery will produce roughly 350,000 litres of whisky a year, and will use Bourbon and Sherry casks for maturation. Benbecula will also produce gin.

Located in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, the distillery’s plans were first submitted in 2020 with the proposed outlay costing £12.5 million (US$17.3m).

The Scottish government’s economic and community development agency, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), provided financial support totalling £2.8m (US$3.2m).

The distillery itself occupies a disused salmon-farming processing plant. It features a glass-walled extension in the form of a lighthouse that houses a copper pot still, which MacMillan describes as a ‘new landmark’ on the island’s rolling landscape.

He added: “After quite a journey over the past few years, it’s fantastic to see the first spirit flowing at Benbecula Distillery. There’s nowhere quite like Benbecula and we are proud to be able to play a part in sustaining our island, creating new, skilled jobs and producing a single malt whisky that will capture the essence of this unique place.

“Brendan McCarron, one of the best-known names in modern distilling, has – we believe – created something very special, making the most of the good things Benbecula has to offer.

“Our malt will be kilned over fires that we lay with peat and foraged heather – a revival of a rare malting technique completely unique in Scotland today and from a recipe last used by distilleries such as Glen Ord and Highland Park in the 19th century.

“Brendan has adapted and developed this process to create a smooth, gentle smokiness and sweet floral character in our spirit. Under his guidance, we will also be creating a variety of flavour styles.”

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