August 9, 2016 – On the same day that Isle of Arran touted a record day for tours (300) at its 21-year-old distillery in Lochranza on its Twitter feed, the distillery announced North Ayrshire Council has granted planning permission to build a second distillery on the island. Construction is expected to begin in October on the site in Lagg along Arran’s southern coast with distilling to begin in mid-2018, according to Arran managing director Euan Mitchell. While there were at least three legal distilleries on the island at one point, Mitchell estimates there may have been as many as 50 illegal stiills in the area around Lagg in the past. “Traditionally, they would have produced quite a heavily peated style of single malt, and our intention is to replicate that and create quite a distinctive character in comparison to Arran,” Mitchell said in a telephone interview.
While roads and other infrastructure in the area around Lagg are minimal, there is a special significance for the site of the new distillery. It overlooks fields now being used to grow malting barley for Arran, and visitors will be able to see the fields from the new distillery’s visitors center. Funding is already in place for the project, with an estimated budget of around £10 million GBP ($13 million USD). “We have a young, dynamic team of architects working on the project, and they’ve come up with a really amazing design…it’s a modern design, but it’s designed to really fit into the landscape,” Mitchell said.
Current plans are to use the name “Lagg Distillery,” though Mitchell says no decision has been made on what brand name the distillery’s single malts will carry. Those plans call for the first release of the distillery’s whisky approximately five years after it opens, though Mitchell is not ruling out a couple of single cask releases during that time – presumably after the initial casks reach the three-year minimum age at which spirit can legally be called Scotch Whisky.
Listen to Mark Gillespie’s interview with Euan Mitchell:
Arran is in the middle of a large-scale expansion after reporting another year of solid growth during 2015. Last week, the distillery reported a 25 percent increase in net profits for 2015 over the previous year, along with a 16 percent increase in sales. The distillery in Lochranza will shut down in mid-October for the installation of two additional stills, with production scheduled to resume in mid-January. The distillery has also opened a new bottling and blending facility, complete with private tasting rooms for importers and distributors visiting the distillery.
According to Mitchell, the increase in visitor traffic at the distillery made it necessary to create a separate area for business guests. Arran recorded around 85,000 visitors during 2015, up from 66,000 the previous year, and projects a similar increase this year. Tours will continue during the construction project this winter, but will not include the actual stillhouse where work is being done. “We’ll let them try a sample of different expressions, show them around the warehousing, and give them as much information as possible,” Mitchell said. For the record, the island has around 4,500 full-time residents, and visitor traffic at the distillery has a major impact on the island’s economy.
Links: Isle of Arran