Diageo to reinvent Mortlach with £30m investment

A view of the new Mortlach distillery
A view of the new Mortlach distillery
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Scotland’s biggest whisky maker has this evening unveiled plans to breath fresh life into one of Speyside’s oldest distilleries by launching a single malt made at Mortlach, described as “the beast of Dufftown”.

Diageo – which owns blended brands including Bell’s, J&B and Johnnie Walker – will pump nearly £30 million into building a second still house at Mortlach to replicate the complex shape of distillery’s stills.

Up until now, only a few bottles of Mortlach single malt have been released to connoisseurs, with the vast majority of production going towards blends.

Next summer, four versions of the Scotch – rare old, special strength, 18-year-old and 25-year-old – will be sold to the duty-free and luxury markets.

The FTSE 100 group – which also makes Gordon’s gin, Guinness stout and Smirnoff vodka – said that the investment would form part of the £1 billion expansion plan unveiled last year.

The company revealed in April that its investment programme would include expansion on Speyside and has now unveiled details of the scheme.

Diageo said: “Mortlach has been described by whisky connoisseurs as ‘The Beast of Dufftown’, for its rich and powerful flavours, produced in an astonishingly complicated and unique distillation process.

“For decades, Mortlach’s output has been largely captured by blenders to add its unique notes to complex blended Scotch whiskies – though in recent times, a very limited number of bottles of Mortlach single malt whisky have been available, and sold rapidly to connoisseurs in the know.

“But now for the first time, and in response to suggestions over the years that such a rewarding single malt whisky deserved a wider market, it will be available in global markets in four expressions aimed at global travel and the luxury and connoisseur segment.”

News of the expansion comes as Diageo prepares a planning application to build a £50m “super-distillery” at Teaninich near Alness in Easter Ross. The development follows on from the opening of Diageo’s £40m Roseisle facility near Elgin in 2010.

Last week, 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.

The distillery, which is designed by architecture practice Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners (RSHP), could be up and running in 2017. RSHP has worked on projects including Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5, the Lloyd’s of London building and the Millennium Dome.

Pernod Ricard – the French drinks giant that owns Paisley-based Chivas Brother, 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.

Production is being expanded across the industry to cope with demand from the United States and emerging markets such as Asia and South America.