Dalmunach distillery, based on the banks of the River Spey in Moray, has been built on the site of the former Imperial distillery, which was mothballed in 1998.
The distillery in Carron, operated by Chivas Brothers, part of the French-based international drinks giant Pernod Ricard, can produce up to ten million litres per year, and has created five full time jobs.
Dalmunach distillery is named after the nearby pool in the River Spey on whose banks the new facility sits.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who opened the distillery, said: “Scotch whisky is one of Scotland’s iconic brands and is in huge demand all over the globe due to the exceptional quality the industry produces. It is hugely important to the Scottish economy.
“The Dalmunach distillery is one of 115 across Scotland and it is a sign of continued investment from Chivas Brothers.
“It’s also fitting that this facility opens in the Year of Food and Drink as we celebrate and promote the magnificence of our natural larder.”
The opening has been welcomed by the Scotch Whisky Association, whose head of communications, Rosemary Gallagher, said: “This is a further sign of confidence in the Scotch whisky industry. We know of at least a 30 distilleries being planned or built over the next few years. Scotch whisky continues to be popular across the globe.”
Blended Scotch is by far the biggest category of Scotch whisky. Around 75 per cent of the value of the Scotch whisky exported each year is blended and around one quarter is single malt whisky.
The new distillery is part of a £60 million-a-year investment in whisky production by Chivas.
Dalmunach has been built using the latest innovations such as heat recovery technology and is the most energy efficient distillery within Chivas Brothers’ portfolio.
The distillery uses blended whisky brands within Chivas Brothers’ portfolio, which includes Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s and Royal Salute.
Chairman Laurent Lacassagne said: “Dalmunach Distillery is an excellent example of securing the future of the industry by respecting its heritage and it’s fitting that the remnants from the old Imperial distillery have been built into an extremely efficient distillery with an architecturally stunning design.
“It is a real pleasure to see this piece of land in Carron, which has had a role in whisky making all the way back to 1897, play a future role in whisky production. Over the last three years we have expanded our malt whisky distillation by 17 per cent as part of an annual capital expenditure commitment of £60m per annum.”
The distillery architecture of Dalmunach has been inspired by the shape of a sheaf of barley reflecting the core ingredient of single malt whisky.
It houses eight unique copper pot stills, with a tulip shape used for the wash stills and an onion shape used for the spirit stills, replicating those from the Imperial distillery which was situated on the site from 1897 until 2012.
In a departure from tradition, the stills have been positioned in a circular design that provides a unique aesthetic for the future.
The Dalmunach distillery will not be open to visitors but will be visible from the nearby Speyside Way walking trail.
The design and construction of the distillery was overseen from start to finish by Douglas Cruickshank, who stepped back from his role as Chivas’ production director two years ago to concentrate on the new build until its completion. He said: “All the people involved are justifiably proud of their part in this very successful project. Dalmunach is a shining example of the collaboration of many functions within Chivas pooling their knowledge, experience and creativity to deliver a modern distillery that has surpassed all expectations in respect of visual impact, plant performance, energy efficiency and spirit quality.”
The completion of the project is a fitting end to Cruickshank’s career which began at the age of 15 at the Imperial distillery. He now takes retirement having come full circle restoring distilling to the same location after a 16-year slumber.