The Grahamslaw Distillery Company, led by businesswoman Sarah Lang and a team of whisky experts including Chivas Brothers’ former master blender, aims to turn a former farm that draws on the Borders’ natural environment into a high-quality, sustainable distillery producing a traditional Lowland single malt.
Plans have just been submitted to Scottish Borders Council, and should approval be obtained, distillation is expected to start at the site in 2024 with an annual production target of 200,000 litres of pure alcohol. It comes amid a flurry of new similar projects in Scotland, including The Port Of Leith Distillery that is being built in Edinburgh and Ili Distillery earmarked for Islay.
The long-term aim regarding the proposed conversion of Grahamslaw Farm is to produce whisky with a zero-carbon footprint as part of an “environmental legacy” running throughout the distillery, from the energy used to the buildings’ change of use and sustainable farming practices. Those behind the project say a unique feature will be the emphasis on producing authentic “field to bottle” single malt whisky, using only spring barley grown on the 667-acre farm.
Iain Lochhead, distillery operations advisor to Grahamslaw Distillery, said: “Grahamslaw is an ideal location for a malt whisky distillery. Set in a beautiful landscape in the Tweed Valley, it has stunning views overlooking the river Kale, a good water supply from a natural spring, excellent surrounding agricultural land, and the good transport links essential for a distillery.”
The plans submitted include restoring the original stone farm buildings to incorporate a mash house, traditional dunnage cask storage, a fermentation room and a new still house. A private lunchroom for guests, known as The Long Room, will open out into a walled garden, and future plans include converting the ruined 17th-century Haughhead laird’s house into a private whisky tasting property beside the river Kale.
Mrs Lang, the owner of Grahamslaw Farm and founder of the Grahamslaw Distillery, said: “We are incredibly excited to breathe new life into our beautiful old buildings and bring significant economic benefit and employment to both Kelso and the Scottish Borders.
“We are passionate about the benefits Grahamslaw Distillery will bring to the Kelso area, a place with which our family has a long history and a deep connection. We will be taking our time to distil and mature the finest malt whisky, and we will also be working hard to lead the way in the industry with sustainable and environmentally friendly production and farming practices.”
Colin Scott, described as a world-renowned Scotch whisky legend, and former master blender at Chivas Brothers, the Scotch whisky business of French spirits giant Pernod Ricard, is the whisky advisor to Grahamslaw Distillery Company. He says he believes the proposed distillery has the opportunity to bring something new to Scotland’s whisky landscape.
He said: “I feel very fortunate to have been involved for a while in this hugely exciting project. I am looking forward to working with Sarah and the Grahamslaw Distillery team to produce a truly world-class single malt whisky.”