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Investment secured for facility

Lifelong friends bring whisky back to Leith

Patrick Fletcher and Ian Stirling
Patrick Fletcher and Ian Stirling Leith whisky (contributed)

First capital distillery in a century

Whisky distilling will return to Leith with the construction of a state of the art distillery in Edinburgh’s port district.

It will occupy a site neighbouring the Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre and The Royal Yacht Britannia and will be the first purpose-built single malt distillery to be constructed in the capital for more than a century.

The site has been confirmed four years since the idea was first conceived by Ian Stirling and Patrick Fletcher, two lifelong friends from the city. A planning application will be submitted in the next three months.

The distillery will focus on fermentation, a key part of the production process rarely highlighted to consumers. 

Mr Stirling, who was previously head of off-trade sales at the London merchant Roberson Wine, says: “The first step to making whisky is making a beer, and as any beer fan will know, there is a whole world of possibilities in that process. We want to play with those possibilities, ferment something special, and then distil a delicious lowland whisky.”

The Port of Leith Distillery’s modern approach will be reflected in the design and construction of the £5m building, which is intended to create an exciting new landmark for Leith and includes plans for an adjacent floating restaurant and bar.

The area was once the centre of Edinburgh’s vibrant whisky industry, but consolidation and market downturns led most producers to retreat to rural locations by the later part of the 20th century. Many of the bonded warehouses that lined the shore still exist today as converted flats. 

Mr Fletcher, adds: “Leith was once the national hub for the Scotch industry and it’s really exciting to be restarting that tradition.

“Our business will boost the local economy by drawing more tourists and residents down to the harbour and providing many new jobs. And hopefully the quality of our building’s architecture will encourage more investment in Leith.” 

Accessibility is a key priority for the company, who intend to open the distillery not only to tourists, but also students and local enthusiasts alike. 

The distillery plans to produce 400,000 lpa (litres pure alcohol) per year. The company has secured investment to apply for planning consents and building warrant.

Significant investment has already been committed for the construction phase, pending the successful outcome of the planning process.

“It took a long time to find the ideal site,” says Mr Fletcher. “Ocean Terminal bought into our vision when we had no money and only a plan. By agreeing to this land deal, they’ve made an enormous contribution to our business and, we hope, to Leith.” 

Dennis Jones, centre manager Ocean Terminal, said: “We are seeing Ocean Terminal more and more as a leisure, cultural and recreational destination. This visionary new distillery on our doorstep can only enhance that strategy.”

Subjit Jassy, asset manager at Resolution (owner of Ocean Terminal), said: “We are proud to support such an innovative and ambitious plan, and this deal ties directly into the social shift within the shopping centre industry.”

Threesixty Architecture has been appointed to design the building.

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