An island in “whisky galore” territory could have its own whisky distillery for the first time in more than 170 years if plans come to fruition.
Storas Uibhist – the community company that runs the estate of most of the islands of South Uist, Eriskay and Benbecula – has drawn up proposals to bring a whisky distillery to South Uist, which has not had one since 1844.
The distillery would be located in Lochboisdale, close to where the SS Politician sank in 1941, with the vessel’s whisky cargo salvaged by the islanders.
Costing around £10 million, the distillery would be owned and run by the local community.
It is hoped the distillery and an associated visitor centre could create about 12 jobs for the area.
Angus MacMillan, chairman of Storas Uibhist, said: “This distillery will be a significant investment in the future of our communities.
“Distilleries last for centuries and represent a significant long-term investment, creating quality jobs and incomes for generations to come.
“The Scottish islands have a long tradition of producing some of the finest whiskies in the world, so we look forward to building on that legacy.
“The inclusion of a distillery visitor centre is hugely important to the economy of the area and adds to other tourist attractions, including fishing, shooting and the rediscovered Old Tom Morris golf course at Askernish.”
The distillery is expected to produce 300,000 litres of whisky each year. There would be the potential to increase to one million litres as the brand grows and develops.
There are also plans for a visitor centre, including an exhibition area, reception, distillery tours and tasting, and a shop.
Locally-grown barley will be used to make the whisky and local peat will be used to produce distinctive smokey whiskies.
A malting floor will be part of the design of the distillery to avoid having to export the barley for malting and bringing it back to the island.
Mr MacMillan said there would also be the opportunity to work with the distillery on the isle of Harris to create a Western Isles Whisky Trail, encompassing all the “legends and traditions” of the SS Politician.
Shoeburn Distillery – the last to exist on South Uist – was closed by Sir James Matheson, whose wife was teetotal.
Architects are drawing up plans for the distillery and the project will then go through the planning application process.
Gareth Roberts, director of distillery designer Organic Architects, said: “The distillery will be a beautiful building, which will greet visitors on the approach to the harbour.
“The building will appear to grow out of the rock of the island, with prominent copper pot stills visible through large windows.
“The design will be sympathetic to the local buildings yet will create a new landmark for the area.”