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Whisky distilling will return to Leith with the construction of a state of the art distillery in Edinburgh’s port district beside Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre and The Royal Yacht Britannia; the first purpose-built single malt distillery to be constructed in the capital for over a century.

Four years since the idea was first conceived by two life-long friends from Edinburgh, the site of the new whisky distillery in Leith has now been confirmed. A planning application is already underway and will be submitted in the next three months.

Founded by Ian Stirling and Patrick Fletcher, who grew up together in the capital, the distillery will bring a distinctive, new approach to Scotch whisky production by focusing on fermentation; a key part of the production process that is rarely highlighted to consumers.

The first step to making whisky is making a beer” explains Ian, who was previously head of Off-Trade sales at the award-winning London merchant Roberson Wine, “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.

Leith was once the national hub for the Scotch industry and it’s really exciting to be restarting that tradition”, says Patrick. “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. “Patrick and I took our first step down this road by purchasing a still and playing with it.” says Ian. “We’d like to give people the chance to do the same thing, but in a slightly safer environment than Patrick’s back garden”.

The distillery plans to eventually 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 Patrick. “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 (owners of Ocean Terminal), “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 have been appointed to design the building.

Progress can be followed at www.leithdistillery.com

Cover Pic: waterofleith.org