Buyer gives new life to Bladnoch Distillery

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The mothballed Bladnoch Distillery in south-west Scotland is to reopen and restart distilling after a six-year gap following its acquisition for an undisclosed price by an Australian entrepreneur.

The new company, Bladnoch Distillery Ltd, is headed by David Prior, 45, whose board will also include non-executive director Gavin Hewitt, former chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, the industry’s trade body.

Bladnoch, which has been bought by David Prior, inset, stopped production in 2009. Picture: Alex Hewitt

Bladnoch, which has been bought by David Prior, inset, stopped production in 2009. Picture: Alex Hewitt

Prior ran the family’s food packaging business Baroda before selling it in 2007. He founded five‑am, an organic yoghurt and granola business in 2009, the company being sold to PZ Cussons for £52 million in 2014.

Prior said yesterday: “I am delighted to have been able to purchase a Scotch whisky distillery of such renown as Bladnoch. Scotch whisky is the world’s foremost spirit drink and I am proud to be part of the Scotch whisky industry.”

Established in 1817 by brothers John and Thomas McClelland, Bladnoch enjoyed a reputation as a leading Lowland Scotch malt whisky distillery under several owners, including Arthur Bell and United Distillers. The mothballed distillery was bought by Co-ordinated Development Services (CDS) in 1994, reopening for production in 2000, before stopping distilling again in 2009. CDS went into liquidation in March 2014.

Luke Charleton, of EY, liquidators to CDS, said he was “delighted” to announce the sale of Bladnoch Distillery “with all retained jobs and creditors paid in full”.

He said: “The distillery continued to trade ‘business as usual’ under my direction, while a purchaser was sought for the business and assets on a going concern basis.

“There was a tremendous level of interest from domestic and international investors in this distillery. It is particularly pleasing to have sold the distillery to a buyer with a clear growth strategy.”

Bladnoch Distillery Ltd said “substantial” new investment was needed to return distilling to Galloway after six years during which the distillery has had the shutters up. It is expected to reopen towards the end of 2016, sources close to the group said.
The existing eight warehouse, administrative and visitor centre staff at the distillery, on the banks of the River Bladnoch, will be retained, and up to six new production staff will be recruited.

Prior owns 100 per cent of the new venture. Hewitt, who was chief executive of the SWA from 2003 to 2013, said: “It is wonderful to see one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries revived.

“I’m excited to be on the team which will breathe new life into Bladnoch and provide a stimulus to the local economy.”

Industry experts said the latest purchase showed the continued resurgence of distilling in southern Scotland, increasing the number of working malt distilleries in the region to eight compared to two a decade ago.

They include Kingsbarns and Daftmill in Fife, plus Aisla Bay at Girvan.