Spring Travel: The Borders Distiller goes with the flow

It’s perhaps surprising that untilnote-0recently Hawick had been without a local whisky distillery since 1837. The Borders Distillery opened its doors in 2018 and produces scotch whisky, gin, and vodka – all made from barley grown within 35 miles of the facility, which is right in the textile town’s centre.
The spirit maker is housed in a former electrical works on the River TeviotThe spirit maker is housed in a former electrical works on the River Teviot
The spirit maker is housed in a former electrical works on the River Teviot

The largest town in the Scottish Borders, Hawick has historically benefitted from its position on cross-country trade routes, and as a gateway to Scotland. Famed for the quality of its water, during the industrial revolution the town blossomed into the capital of the Scottish textile industry. It’s where tweed was invented and where cashmere is still king.

This spirit of invention and enterprise in the town continues to inspire the Borders Distillery.

An award-winning conversion of the former Edwardian electrical works situated on the banks of the River Teviot, the distiller’s building has been a prominent landmark in the town since 1903. Founded by three veterans of the Scotch whisky industry, who made it a priority to preserve as much of the character of the former building as possible, the structure’s high Victorian glass ceilings allow the distilling halls to be flooded with natural light.

The Borders Distillery by Keith HunterThe Borders Distillery by Keith Hunter
The Borders Distillery by Keith Hunter

The firm has a talented young team of distillers, with the majority being women under 30. They can turn their hands to every aspect of the distilling process – from milling and mashing, through fermentation and distillation, as well as filling casks and racking them in the warehouses.

Uniquely, it’s the same team who operate as tour guides, taking visitors around the distillery answering any and all questions. Tours this year begin on Monday, 1 April and run until the end of October.

Tours start at £20 per person – although they’re free for anyone under 18 when accompanied by an adult. All the spirits are made from seed to spirit and the tour covers all stages of the creation of the drinks. Unlike many other distilleries visitors are actively encouraged to take photos as the natural light from the glass ceiling makes this a uniquely beautiful experience.

The steel hoist from the original workshop now functions as a picture-window frame for the distillery shop, while old teak school desks were salvaged and reused to create furniture and windowsills.

Of course, once you’re through marvelling at the award-winning architecture, you’re invited to sample the spirits at the bar.

As it can take eight to ten years for a fine single malt to mature, the distillers have kept themselves busy by creating blended whiskies, beginning with 2019’s Borders Malt & Rye which is based upon a small batch of rye spirit matured in the same bourbon casks as the single malt.

The distillers have also created Puffing Billy Steam Vodka, an unfiltered malted barley spirit, charcoal steamed in the still to preserve the unique flavour of the locally sourced barley.

Similarly, Kerr’s Gin – named in honour of the Hawick-born 19th-Century botanist William Kerr – is distilled from barley grown with a 30-mile radius, while the botanicals are gently steamed in the specially commissioned Carterhead Still, unlike most other gin stills that simply boil their botanicals.

The distillery also has a private cask scheme, 1837, which allows customers to bottle a piece of Borders history. You can choose to fill your whisky into one of their different cask types, all carefully selected by the whisky makers to complement the fresh orchard fruits character of the Borders Distillery’s award-winning New Make Spirit.