Sustainable Scotland: Green 'monster' whisky distillery and brewery sets up home on Ness bank

A brand new low-carbon distillery and brewery is opening in Inverness, the first to be built in the Highland capital for 130 years.

Named Uilebheist – Gaelic for monster, in homage to Nessie, legendary resident of nearby Loch Ness – the £6 million scheme will produce whisky, including a signature single malt, and a range of beers.

Operations will be sustainably powered by the River Ness, which runs through the city, making it one of the greenest of its kind in the UK.

All water used in creation of the beverages will also be drawn from the river, giving drinkers a true “taste of the Highlands”.

The founders say the ethos of the project is inspired by thousands of years of Scottish folklore and aims to connect Scotland’s ancient past with the present.

Annual production of the new Scotch will be limited, making it one of the rarest when it comes to maturation.

The premises will also host a visitor centre, offering tours and special events.

It’s thought around 40 jobs will be created as part of the development.

Uilebheist – taken from the Gaelic for monster, in homage to Nessie, legendary resident of nearby Loch Ness – will produce whisky and a range of beers in the centre of Inverness. Picture: John Baikie

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Both beer and whisky production will begin this year, with the brewery’s five core beers available to purchase from late November.

Uilebheist Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky will be created as the core whisky product and will be released once matured, as will rare cask finishes and single-cask bottlings in the years ahead.

“The very foundations of this project were born from Scottish myth and legend,” said Jon Erasmus, owner of Uilebheist.

Uilebheist, whose operations will be powered by water from the nearby River Ness, is the first new distillery to be built in the Highland capital for 130 years. This architect's render shows what the copper stills will look like when installed

“We wanted to create something unique to the area, with the distillery and brewery both powered by the famous River Ness.

“All water used in the processes will also be sourced from the river, meaning that when you drink Uilebheist’s liquid you really are tasting the Highlands.”

Operations will be headed up by Uilebheist master brewer and distiller Bruce Smith, who has a masters degree in the discipline from Heriot-Watt University and has spent the past decade working in the craft beer industry and ageing beer in old whisky barrels.

He says the firm will be concentrating on quality rather than quantity.

Jon Erasmus, who co-owns Uilebheist Distillery with his wife Victoria, says the brand's new Highland single malt whisky will be "like no other" -- with a predicted flavour profile, subject to trials, including notes of butterscotch, candied citrus peel, raisins and sultanas, delicate wood spices and vanilla. Picture: John Baikie

“We are on track to officially open in November 2022 and begin beer production which visitors can enjoy in the taproom,” he said.

“Whisky production will commence later this year.

“Due to our small scale we will only produce around 200 casks annually, making Uilebheist one of the rarest whiskies in Scotland.

“The whisky will be matured in ex-bourbon and sherry casks, but the whisky will let us know when it’s ready and we have no intention to rush it.

“Quality is our number one focus.”

The firm is also offering a special one-off opportunity for whisky fans to snap up their own cask of the first ever Uilebheist malt.

Mr Erasmus added: “Creating both beer and whisky simultaneously will allow us to offer an immediate product, and whilst we wait for the whisky to reach maturity there will be an opportunity to own one of a limited number of casks of the Uilebheist Single Malt Whisky distilled in the first year of production, through our cask programme.

“Alongside exceptional beer and whisky, we aim to raise the bar when it comes to visitor experiences and hope that the project will lead the way for Scotland’s hospitality sector in the area.

“The centre will offer a range of tours and experiences, ranging from site tours and sampling of our core whisky and craft beer products through to detailed master classes, blending workshops and food-pairing menus.”

Heat pumps, set within the site’s dedicated sustainability centre, will be powered by water from the Ness to provide heating and hot water for the distillery and the neighbouring Glen Mhor Hotel complex, which is owned by the Erasmus family.

The process will be the first of its kind in Scotland and further development stages are planned that will see significant expansions to the site.

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