Planning consent has already been granted for development at the steading at Torabhaig on the island’s south-east coast. Work on the £5 million project is set to begin in the early summer.
The renovations are expected to take about 18 months, and once completed will mark the realisation of an ambition long held by Sir Iain, a businessman known both for his merchant banking career in Edinburgh and his wider promotion of the Gaelic language.
He spent a number of years putting together plans for Torabhaig, but these had not come to fruition by the time of his death in late 2010. His widow, Lucilla, has been invited to join the board of the new distillery.
“Iain long ago recognised the great potential of the Torabhaig steading as the perfect site for a distillery on the Sleat peninsula and worked hard towards that objective,” she said.
“I am very pleased that this ambitious redevelopment is about to be started and that his vision will become a reality.”
The project is now under the control of Mossburn Distillers, which is headed by chief executive Neil Mathieson. Originally form Edinburgh, Mr Mathieson knew Sir Iain and had spoken to him in previous years about Torabhaig.
Detailed specifications for the new distillery have yet to be finalised, but will include visitor facilities. Plans being put together by Edinburgh architects Simpson & Brown – who previously looked at the site for Sir Iain – will focus on preserving the historic structure.
“The design of the new distillery will reflect a commitment to quality and to the best values of the industry we are joining,” Mr Mathieson said.
“Torabhaig will be very traditional and a sympathetic transformation of the existing farm steading.”
Once completed, it will become only the second distillery on the famous Hebridean island. The other is Talisker, founded in 1830 in Carbost and owned by drinks giant Diageo.
Mr Mathieson said Torabhaig would be a “valuable contribution” to whisky distilling on Skye. It should also enhance the island’s appeal to international visitors who are drawn by its natural beauty and cultural heritage.
“We have a wonderful property in a beautiful setting looking over the Sound of Sleat to Knoydart,” he said. “It’s a perfect location for a small, traditional distillery and we look forward to working with the local community to bring our plans to life.”
Mossburn Distillers produces about three million bottles annually of wine, vodka and rum from sites in Russia, the Caucasus, Poland, Switzerland and France. It is privately owned by Haydn Holdings, a Swedish investment vehicle.
The company has operated in the UK as an importer and exporter for about 30 years. This is its first move into UK production, which Mr Mathieson described as a “very important starting point”.
“We don’t intend it to be our last investment in Scotland,” he added.
The first new spirit from Torabhaig is expected to flow by the end of 2015, with the distillery eventually producing between one-quarter and half a million litres per year for single malt production. It is likely to employ about eight people.