Multi-million-pound boost for distillery and heritage centre in 'birthplace of Scotch whisky'

Plans for a distillery and heritage centre in a remote area of north-east Scotland have received a multi-million-pound boost.

The Cabrach Distillery and Heritage Centre aims to showcase the “craft and alchemy of making Scotland’s national drink” while telling the story of the historic region.

The area was a once thriving community of more than 1,000 residents and a legendary haunt of rebellious Jacobites, illicit distillers and smugglers. However, the devastation wrought by the Great Wars began a spiral of depopulation and decline. Today fewer than 100 people call the Cabrach home.

Now the Cabrach Trust, which is behind a drive to regenerate the area as a sustainable community, has secured the £3.5 million needed to activate the project.

Architect's impression of the Cabrach Distillery and Heritage Centrel.

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Grant Gordon, founder and chairman of the Cabrach Trust, said: “Our vision is to regenerate the Cabrach as a thriving, sustainable community. Having secured funding for this project represents a critical milestone for the trust and we look forward to embarking on this exciting next chapter in the Cabrach’s story.”

A 19th-century steading at the trust’s Inverharroch base will be restored to its former glory through a “sympathetic” restoration programme while sustainability will be at the heart of the transformation, with the inclusion of a renewable energy source.

The Ethos Foundation, a principal funder of the Cabrach Trust, has pledged its support to the project, alongside capital grants from the William Grant Foundation and the Vattenfall Clashindarroch Wind Farm Community Fund.

Forsyths, a global leader in the supply of distillation equipment, which is based in nearby Rothes, is also “contributing considerably”.

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With an award-winning design team appointed, led by Collective Architecture, funding secured, and planning approval in place, enabling works on site are expected to get underway in February 2022, with the aim of being operational by spring 2023.

Jonathan Christie, chief executive of the Cabrach Trust, said: “With the build commencing early in the New Year, we look forward to sharing progress as our one-of-a-kind social enterprise unfolds, whilst launching several other exciting projects all poised to go live in 2022.

“We are humbled by the support provided by the Ethos Foundation, Bently Foundation and our other core funders.

“It is a privilege to work with and alongside such an array of incredible peer, community, and funding partners. The Cabrach Distillery and Heritage Centre is central to our regeneration plans and the long-term sustainability of this important community.”

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Richard Lochhead MSP said: “The Cabrach is a unique community with an incredibly rich heritage. The trust’s ambitious regeneration plans promise to open a new chapter in its story.

“It is widely believed that the Cabrach is the birthplace of Scotch whisky and plans for a new distillery and heritage centre are not only fitting but also hugely exciting.”

Nick Addington, chief executive of the William Grant Foundation, added: “The William Grant Foundation is delighted to be supporting the Cabrach Trust’s innovative and entrepreneurial redevelopment of Inverharroch as a social enterprise distillery and heritage centre.

“The new community-owned facility will celebrate and showcase the contribution of this special place and the people who lived there, to Speyside and Scotland’s whisky heritage, and contribute to its sustainable future.”

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