This week (January 2016) saw the latest major announcement in the world of Scotch whisky. Hunter Laing's plans for a new distillery on Islay will hopefully lead to two new distilleries for the most famous of whisky producing Hebridean islands. This latest announcement is on a 4-acre plot of land at Ardnahoe, on the North East coast of the island.
The other is Gartbreck, the first new distillery proposal for Islay in ten years. It is the brainchild of Jean Donnay, owner of Glann ar Mor distillery in Brittany. Construction for this project at Loch Indaal, just west of Bowmore starts in Spring 2016. On completion of these projects, the total number of distilleries on Islay will rise to double figures.
Currently in Scotland, there are 37 new distillery projects either started or in the planning process.
If all of those projects come to fruition that would mean almost a third more whisky distilleries than are currently in operation.
This would lead to an amazing new landscape in the world of whisky, with the output from new distilleries distributed between some of the existing major players alongside equally passionate new entrants. These new whiskies should be available to discover and savour several years from now.
But let's not also forget those newly completed distilleries who are patiently waiting out that all important time between first run and full term maturation. It's this long wait that creates such an enigmatic industry, with expectation and eagerness having to be tempered until the time to savour is here.
The investment in the whisky sector is at an all-time high. Whisky is the most unusual of products, with cottage industries and seven-figure investment sums talked about in the same sentence.
Perhaps we will see the emergence of new whisky classifications, or go back to local producers and local distributor setups. The US has seen a different but very novel approach with the Bardstown Project. This Kentucky Bourbon distilling facility puts craft production onto an industrial scale. Bardstown are even offering to help with two of the biggest problems that new craft producers face, access to on site expert production consultancy, and assistance with the long term financing needs of craft distillers.
We don't foresee the emergence of industrial scale craft production facilities in Scotland, where heritage, provenance and location are as important as brand and volume of output. But one thing is for sure those maps of Scottish distilleries are going to have to be updated quite a few times over the coming years.
At Craft Whisky Club we want to help you discover this new whisky landscape as it unfolds.
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Sean Murphy at the Scotsman Food & Drink.