Tech veteran Bill Dobbie's Isle of Raasay Distillery helping Campbeltown get first new distillery in 140-plus years

A whisky firm has unveiled plans to build the first new distillery in Campbeltown – once seen as the world capital of the industry – for more than 140 years in a move that is expected to create 20 jobs.

Edinburgh-headquartered R&B Distillers, which is behind the Isle of Raasay single malt, hopes to start construction of the Machrihanish Distillery in 2023.

R&B, co-founded by Scottish technology entrepreneur Bill Dobbie, has just completed the purchase of a site in the remote Argyll & Bute port that used to be home to more than 30 distilleries.

The Dhurrie Farm location will house a new “farm to bottle” distillery and visitor centre, subject to planning consent that is expected to be finalised during 2022. The planned initial production output will be 400,000 litres a year.

An aerial view of the planned new distillery in Campbeltown. Picture: Zone Architects.

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Mr Dobbie, whose family were originally from the Campbeltown area, said: “When R&B Distillers was founded in 2015 we had a clear ambition to create Scotland’s leading artisanal distiller – building on Raasay’s nascent success, and, noticing the clear global demand for supreme quality drinks with unquestionable provenance, this announcement confirms significant progress towards this goal.”

Argyll & Bute councillor Donald Kelly said he was “delighted to see what could be the beginning of a renaissance of whisky distilling in the Campbeltown region”.

“With years gone by since we were Scotland’s home of whisky, seeing the return of a farm-to-bottle distillery that will provide important local employment and a vibrant visitor attraction is something that really excites me and the broader community,” he added.

The Isle of Raasay distillery was created at the formerly derelict Victorian hotel Borodale House. The distillery is one of the largest employers on the island, near to the Isle of Skye, with a population of about 120.

Its single malt has been available for almost a year and the company has recently announced plans to double production capacity on the island to around 400,000 litres a year over the next three to five years.

International

The spirit is now distributed via hundreds of outlets in the UK, as well as through experienced distributors in 24 countries, including the leading whisky markets of France, Germany, Japan, China and Taiwan.

R&B is also progressing plans for a micro grain distillery in Coldstream. Together with South of Scotland Enterprise and Borders Council, it is exploring several options for the site of a new distillery that should be confirmed shortly.

Alongside these announcements, R&B has revealed a new-look executive team led by Mr Dobbie as executive chairman, Alasdair Day as co-founder and master distiller, Norman Gillies as operations director, Mr Dobbie’s son William as commercial director, and Stuart Blues as finance director.

R&B currently employs 25 people between Raasay, Edinburgh and London.

Whisky enthusiast Bill Dobbie co-founded Glasgow cloud computing firm Iomart and later established dating technology business Cupid.

Fellow R&B co-founder Mr Day’s great-grandfather owned a licensed grocery shop, brewery and whisky blending business in Coldstream. He worked in the food industry for more than 25 years before establishing the business with Bill Dobbie.

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