QUEEN’S Dock in Glasgow was once the beating heart of Scotland’s whisky industry, with boats laden with Scotch leaving the port to sell their wares throughout the British Empire and beyond.
Now, whisky industry veteran Tim Morrison aims to breath fresh life into the site after unveiling plans to build Glasgow’s first distillery for more than 100 years.
Mr Morrison will spend £10 million buying the site of the dock’s old pump house – set between the Riverside Museum and the new Hydro concert venue – from owner Clydeport and building a visitors centre and small-batch distillery.
The facility would be capable of producing around 500,000 litres of whisky a year, although initially The Glasgow Distillery is likely to limit its output to about 150,000 litres – enough to fill about 200,000 bottles.
Diageo, Scotland’s largest distiller, closed its Port Dundas grain distillery in 2010 as part of restructuring that saw its historic Johnnie Walker bottling hall in Kilmarnock close. The remaining distilleries in the area include Auchentoshan at Clydebank and Glengoyne, near Killearn.
Many producers – such as Famous Grouse-maker Edrington, Morrison Bowmore and Whyte & Mackay – still have a presence in Glasgow.
Mr Morrison told The Scotsman: “Glasgow has a rich whisky history – in 1963, the trade directory lists 30 or 40 whisky companies working in the city. We began thinking about building a distillery in the spring of 2011 to help secure supplies for AD Rattray, our whisky bottling business.”
He added: “We have brought on board an expert team to build the distillery, including Harry Cockburn, who was our production engineer at Morrison Bowmore. I want to create a whisky that will have all the characteristics you would expert from a lowland Scotch.”
Figures released earlier this month by the Scotch Whisky Association trade body showed exports of Scotland’s national drink rose by 11 per cent year-on-year to just under £2 billion. The US remains the biggest market for Scotch, accounting for £391 million-worth of exports, followed by France and then Singapore, which acts as a distribution hub for many fast-growing markets in Asia.
Mr Morrison said the pump house building would be used as part of the visitors’ centre, which he hoped would attract more than 50,000 tourists each year.
The project will be financed by Mr Morrison and his family, who sold Morrison Bowmore to Japanese drinks giant Suntory in 1994, although he has received expressions of interest from investors at home and in the US.
Sandra White, the SNP MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, said: “I truly believe this is a fantastic opportunity to re-establish Glasgow’s historic whisky heritage. Not only this but it will also greatly improve the regeneration of this area of Kelvin, while also benefiting the whole of Glasgow.”
Mr Morrison has applied for planning permission for The Glasgow Distillery and said the first phase – which would include the distillery building, the visitors centre and a cafe – can begin once consent is granted.
Phase two, which would consist of fitting-out the distillery, could then be completed by the middle of 2015. Up to 300 construction jobs are expected to be created, with 25 staff forecast to work at the distillery and visitors’ centre once it opens.