Peat smell of success as whisky launched in Raasay

Alasdair Day is promising drams "of uncommon provenance". Picture: Michael McGurk
Alasdair Day is promising drams "of uncommon provenance". Picture: Michael McGurk
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The tiny Hebridean island of Raasay is set to produce 150,000 bottles a year of its own brand of whisky with the opening of Scotland’s newest distillery in 2017.

The multi-million pound development will create employment for 11 of the 120 residents if it gets the go-ahead. A planning application for the distillery is to be submitted to Highland Council by Edinburgh-based R&B Distillers in September.

Borodale House will provide accommodation. Picture: Michael McGurk

Borodale House will provide accommodation. Picture: Michael McGurk

They are awaiting the results of a protected species study for bats, otters and the Raasay vole.

The creation of a distillery, a state-of-the-art visitor experience centre and luxury accommodation – which will include the restoration of the island’s currently derelict Victorian hotel, Borodale House – will put Raasay on the map for whisky lovers around the globe, it is hoped. Driven by a desire to make “handcrafted whiskies of uncommon provenance”, R&B Distillers hope to release the first batch of Raasay whisky by 2020 and produce up to 150,000 bottles of whisky a year thereafter.

Bill Dobbie, a Scots entrepreneur and co-founder of online dating site Cupid, and business partner Alasdair Day, who currently produces Tweeddale whisky, founded R&B Distillers in 2014.

Mr Day, the managing director, said: “It’s incredible to think that there are still areas of Scotland completely ‘forgotten’ by whisky. The Isle of Raasay is one of those unique locations and is the perfect home for R&B Distillers to handcraft whiskies of uncommon provenance.

“There are parts of Scotland ‘forgotten’ by whisky”

Alasdair Day

“We’re now working hard to engineer a whisky destination unlike any other. From the magnificent views over to Skye, to experiencing craft distilling first-hand, we can’t wait for visitors to discover our whiskies, the island and the community here on Raasay.” Around 12,000 people are expected to visit the Raasay distillery in its first year, where tourists and whisky enthusiasts alike can witness the craft distilling process.

A private tasting room and public café bar will offer uninterrupted views of the Cuillin mountain range, while five luxury en-suite rooms in the restored Borodale House will be exclusively available to members of the Distillery’s Na Tùsairean club – Gaelic for “The Pioneers”.

The first batch of Raasay whisky is forecast to be ready in five years and is expected to be a three-year-old single malt with a lightly peated profile.

Meanwhile, in September this year, R&B Distillers is set to release “Raasay While We Wait”. Blended from two Highland whiskies from one distillery, it is hoped the whisky will be representative of the Raasay single malt.

The property the entrepreneurs wish to use was built as a detached villa in the 1870s and sits above the main road from the pier to Inverarish.

In a feasibility report, Olli Blair, of ABIR Architects, who are spearheading the project, said: “The Raasay distillery will be a sister facility to a separate distillery in Walkerburn in the Borders.

“The Walkerburn facility will house the grist mill, and malted barley will be milled there and transported in one-tonne bags to Raasay. The Raasay distillery is to be seen as ‘a leading distiller of niche whiskies’ with batch production and whisky bar selling an extensive range of batch whiskies.”

The visitor centre would highlight the history and geology of the island.