Sustainable Scotland: Ness is more for eco-friendly new craft whisky and beer

Legend has it that Saint Columba, during a visit to Scotland in the sixth century, banished a “water monster” to the depths of Loch Ness after he saw it attack a disciple who was swimming in the adjoining river.

And so began the mythology of Nessie the Loch Ness Monster, which has continued to capture the public imagination ever since that first ‘sighting’ nearly 1,500 years ago.

The ancient creature is one of the inspirations behind a new £6 million low-carbon boutique whisky distillery, brewery and visitor attraction in inverness, set up by Jon and Victoria Erasmus.

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Named Uilebheist, Gaelic for monster, it is the first new distillery to be built in the Highland capital for 130 years.

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Now the all-important equipment which will be used to create the drinks – including a signature single malt and a range of beers – has just arrived on site.

The first whisky will be created in December, if all goes to plan, with at least three years before the earliest bottles will be available for drinking.

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Beers are expected to be on sale early next year.

The whisky will be made with locally grown malted barley and Uilebheist’s own brewer’s yeast, then matured in former bourbon and sherry casks.

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Victoria Erasmus, co-owner and sustainability boss at the new Uilebheist distillery and brewery in Inverness, has just taken delivery of all the equipment which will be used to create the firm's "unique" whiskies and beers. Picture: Paul Campbell

It will have a natural colour and will not be chill-filtered.

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Master brewer and distiller Bruce Smith has revealed the flavour profile he’s aiming to achieve – butterscotch, candied citrus peel, raisins and sultanas, delicate wood spices and vanilla – but says the final spirit will be “unique”.

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“Uilebheist will breathe new life into the tales that have captivated and enthralled mankind ever since we first sat around the fire in caves,” he said.

“Uilebheist will breathe new life into the tales that have captivated and enthralled mankind ever since we first sat around the fire in caves,” says master brewer and distiller Bruce Smith. “The whisky will let us know when it’s ready and we have no intention to rush it." Picture: Paul Campbell
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“The whisky will let us know when it’s ready and we have no intention to rush it.

“We will be creating a unique spirit which will be defined and influenced by different factors including our yeast strain, still design and cask selection.

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“Being a small-batch craft distiller, every step of the process will be meticulously managed to ensure every drop of Uilebheist Single Malt is worth the wait.”

Sited on the banks of the Ness, the distillery’s power and all water used in creation of the beverages will come from the river.

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It has its own dedicated sustainability centre, which houses heat pumps that provide heating and hot water for the distillery and the neighbouring Glen Mhor Hotel complex, which is also owned by the Erasmus family.

The business has just scooped a gold Green Tourism award.

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Co-owner and sustainability boss Victoria Erasmus, said: “We are very proud of our Highland heritage and want to ensure that it remains beautiful for years to come.

“Our distillery is almost entirely powered by solar power and by water from boreholes from the banks of the River Ness, via our unique on-site sustainability centre, which is completely separate from the gas grid.

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“This means that we save over 250 tonnes of carbon each year and take significant steps towards being net zero.

“We take our role and responsibility towards sustainable tourism seriously as we look to address the climate emergency we are all facing.

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“Developing our climate action plan allowed us to address our part in supporting our local environment and futureproof our business going forward, placing sustainability at its core of every development.”

Uilebheist will offer a range of experiences for visitors, ranging from site tours and sampling of core whisky and craft beer products through to master classes, blending workshops and food-pairing menus.

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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.

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