‘Most northernly’ Scotch distillery gets green light at John O'Groats

Plans for Scotland’s most northerly mainland whisky distillery have received the green light and close to £200,000 in funding.

Husband-and-wife team Derek and Kerry Campbell are co-founders of the distillery. Picture: Contributed
Husband-and-wife team Derek and Kerry Campbell are co-founders of the distillery. Picture: Contributed

John O’Groats is set to produce its first Scotch in more than 180 years after a local couple secured planning permission to convert a 32,700 square foot site into a whisky distillery, visitor centre and bonded warehouse.

The micro-distillery will become Scotland’s most northerly mainland whisky distillery, thanks to its “end of the line” location near to the coast of John O’Groats.

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The title is currently held by Wolfburn Distillery near Thurso.

A 3D render of the micro-distillery set to open in John OGroats in 2021. Picture: Contributed

Work on the new distillery is due to begin in summer 2020, with the aim of opening the visitor centre to the public in summer 2021.

It will have the capacity to produce up to 60,000 litres of whisky each year.

The project is the brainchild of husband-and-wife team Derek and Kerry Campbell and has received £198,000 of funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

It is estimated that six new jobs will be created during the first year, including a master whisky maker and a visitor centre manager.

'Whisky unlike any other'

Founder Kerry Campbell said: “After many conversations with my husband around the idea of building our own distillery and creating our own whisky, I’m delighted that we are now one step closer to making these plans a reality having secured planning permission on our dream site at John O’Groats.

“We believe the whisky we will produce will be unlike that from any other distillery, due to our coastal location in John O’Groats and the impact the local climate will have on our spirit as it matures.

“With traditional methods at the heart of our plans and an ambition to showcase whisky distilling in John O’Groats to the world, we are looking forward to opening the doors to our micro-distillery in due course.

“The support we have received from the local community and business owners to date has been fantastic and we can’t wait to welcome them to our distillery in 2021.”

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The venture will offer a visitor attraction to tourists and provide those travelling from Land’s End to John O’Groats with an opportunity to toast their lengthy journey.

It will encompass a distillery and visitor centre designed to showcase the two copper stills and traditional whisky making process, with views across the Pentland Firth through large glass windows along the front of the building.

A 1,500 square foot dunnage warehouse will also be built on the site to mature and store the Highland spirit.

Keith Muir, HIE’s head of business growth for Caithness and Sutherland, said: “Tourism and food and drink are two key industries in Caithness, and this project features both. As well as producing a brand-new whisky, it will enhance the area’s wider visitor offering, notably around the North Coast 500.

“All of this encourages visitors to stay in the area longer, which benefits all local businesses and communities.

“We particularly welcome the improvement it will make to the look and feel of the John O’Groats end of the road attraction, in bringing a long disused site back into productive use.”