SCOTLAND’S biggest whisky maker has increased its investment in the Highlands to nearly £150 million after yesterday unveiling a £30m expansion at its Clynelish site in Sutherland.
Diageo – which produces blends including Bell’s, J&B and Johnnie Walker – has submitted a planning application to Highland Council and will consult with residents next month.
The expansion is part of a £1 billion investment unveiled by the FTSE 100 spirits giant in 2012 to help meet rising demand for Scotch in overseas markets.
News of the Clynelish investment came as six copper stills were delivered to the Glen Ord distillery as part of an on-going £25m extension, which will double its output to more than ten million litres each year.
Diageo is also doubling the capacity at the Teaninich distillery in Alness and is already seeking permission to build a further distillery and renewable energy plant on land next to Teaninich.
Keith Miller, Diageo’s director of distillation and maturation, said: “The plan to expand Clynelish distillery is another major milestone in Diageo’s £1bn investment to increase Scotch whisky production
capacity to help meet the growth in global demand for our brands.
“Clynelish is a very special distillery, producing spirit that is highly prized for its quality and character and is an important part of our Scotch whisky blending inventory, so this is an important part of our investment programme.
“I’m particularly pleased at the investment we are making in the Highland region.
“From Muir of Ord to Brora, the investment in our distilleries is almost £150m, which we believe is bringing great benefit to the local economies and communities.”
In December, Diageo unveiled £30m plans to open a second still house at its Mortlach distillery – described as “the beast of Dufftown” – on Speyside.
Diageo – which also makes Baileys Irish cream liqueur, Guinness stout and Smirnoff vodka – opened its £40m Roseisle “super-distillery” north of Elgin in 2010, the first major plant to be opened for 30 years.
Since then, a flurry of distillers have unveiled expansion plans. French drinks giant ernod Ricard – which owns Chivas Brothers, Scotland’s second largest distiller and the maker of Chivas Regal, The Glenlivet and Royal Salute – is building a facility at Carron, on Speyside, at a site previously occupied by the Imperial distillery.
Chivas has already re-opened its Glen Keith site and is expanding Glenallachie, Glentauchers, Longmorn and Tormore.
In November, Edrington – which makes whiskies including Famous Grouse, Highland Park and The Macallan – announced it will spend £100m replacing its distillery and visitors centre on the Macallan estate on Speyside.
Distillers are racing to meet a growing thirst for Scotch in the United States and emerging markets such as China and India.
Figures released by the Scotch Whisky Association trade body showed that exports hit a record high of £4.3bn in 2012, accounting for 80 per cent of Scotland’s food and drink output and a quarter of the UK’s total.