Scotland’s illegal whisky heritage to be celebrated

Artist's impression of Cabrach heritage centre. Picture: Contributed

Artist's impression of Cabrach heritage centre. Picture: Contributed

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A NEW £5.3 million visitor attraction is being created to mark Scotland’s intriguing illicit whisky history.

A trust set up to regenerate the historic Cabrach region of the north east has unveiled major plans for a new distillery and heritage centre that will create jobs and attract visitors.

The Cabrach Trust is embarking on a fundraising campaign to transform Inverharroch Farm into a visitor attraction, with the aim of putting the Cabrach firmly on the Scotch whisky tourist map.

Said to be one of the birthplaces of Scotch whisky, the Cabrach - located on the southern edge of Moray - is famed for illicit stills and smuggling routes in years gone by.

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The plans have been funded through donations from foundations and private individuals, and a major grant application is about to be submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Cabrach Trust was established to facilitate rural regeneration in and around the Cabrach area.

Executive Director Sue Savege, whose background is in heritage management and sustainable tourism, said: “The Cabrach is a special location with a rich heritage and culture and we want to share this unique bowl of spectacular, untouched scenery with a wider audience, while facilitating the creation of at least 10 jobs initially and providing a long-term boost to the local economy.

“The planned heritage centre will be the catalyst to revive the community and put the spotlight on the heritage of the Cabrach and its place in Scottish history. We want to celebrate its remoteness and see a vibrant and thriving community in the Cabrach once again, and to bring more people to the area while preserving all that makes it unique.”

The plans make use of the existing farm steadings and have been designed by a team led by local architects AKA Ltd and interior designers Surface ID.

The plans also include the distilling, maturation and bottling of a unique whisky produced in a replica of an early 19th-century distillery using traditional methods.

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The proposals for the heritage centre include a café, exhibition space for public and private hire and a gift shop.

The Trust is also acquiring other buildings to convert into accommodation and training facilities to support the distillery and visitor centre.

The School House will provide accommodation for up to eight people, while the former primary school will be used as a warehouse and offices for the centre.

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Old Cabrach Hall will be used as a training and meeting venue, which will be available for hire to community groups.

Grant Gordon, chairman of the board of trustees, said: “These are hugely exciting plans and we are delighted to see them officially launched.

“Our vision is to help develop a thriving community that offers opportunities for both residents and visitors to enrich their lives by enjoying and sharing their surroundings.

“We believe that the distillery, heritage centre and the associated amenities will establish the Cabrach as a must-see in the North-east, bringing in new people and sustaining the local economy.”

The plans have been welcomed by Fergus Ewing MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity.

He said: “Our aim is to grow the rural economy sustainably for the benefit of everyone who lives and works in rural Scotland. Joining up opportunities for tourism, food and drink and employment in this kind of initiative is exciting and the sort of development that could bring significant benefits for the area.”

Richard Lochhead, MSP for Moray, added: “The Cabrach is a unique community with such a strong sense of place and rich heritage. The ambitious regeneration plans promise to open a new chapter in the Cabrach’s powerful story and it is fitting that what is widely believed to be the birthplace of Scotch whisky could soon be home to a new distillery.”

Steve Harris, chief executive of VisitAberdeenshire, also welcomed the plans, adding: “The story of malt whisky from its illicit beginnings to the global industry it has become is one which visitors love to learn more about.

“Whisky remains a key driver for visitors from the UK and overseas to come to this part of Scotland and additional reasons for them to visit should be warmly welcomed.”

A planning application is expected to be submitted later this year, with an estimated completion date of 2020.

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