Traditional Methods of Whisky Making Return to Islay

Plans for what will be the 9th whisky distillery on Islay, which is regarded as the Mecca of whisky, have been revealed. Gartbreck Distillery will be built at Saltpan Point on the site of an old farm located on the shore of Loch Indaal south of Bowmore.

Artist Impression of Gartbreck Distillery Islay

Gartbreck Distillery will be unique in reviving the traditional method of whisky making which had been abandoned for the benefit of cost efficiency. Its two pots stills which will be overlooking the sea through a large glass gable will be direct heated with a live flame, it will use worm tub condensers and fermentation of the wash will take place in Oregon Pine wooden washbacks. This has nothing to do with nostalgia, the reasons of those choices being this is how Jean Donnay who has now completed the design of the distillery wants to make whisky since he believes this is how he should do in order to obtain the specific character he is aiming at. Continue reading.....
Artist Impression of Gartbreck Distillery Site

His belief is largely based on his experience of having previously designed Glann ar Mor Distillery in Brittany under the very same lines, and having operated it successfully since 2005. Its whiskies have earned wide recognition with in particular five "Liquid Gold Awards" in Jim Murray's Whisky Bible, and he has been named "Distillery Manager of the Year 2014" at the "Icons of Whisky – Rest of the World" for his distillery in Brittany. Although reverting to time proven methods, Gartbreck's bespoke equipment will include some technical evolution allowing in particular to significantly minimize the drawbacks usually associated with the direct heating of the stills. The distillery's water will flow by gravity from Grunnd Loch which overlooks the distillery 900m away from it, and the floor malting and the kiln will allow to produce 20% of its needs in peated malt in using local barley from Islay.

Grunnd Loch - The water source for the Gartbreck Distillery

The plans also include the production of gin in limited volume, to be sold exclusively at the distillery's visitor centre in order to stimulate business activity during the initial period when the distillery's whisky will not yet be available.The highest attention has been paid by the local architects and designers to respect the exceptional location, the distillery's building keeping a sleek silhouette for a smooth integration in the landscape. Once it will be operating at nominal capacity the distillery will be producing 55.000 LPA per year. One type of Single Malt will be produced, offering a highly peaty character for which Islay whiskies are so famous.

The new distillery will see up to 10 jobs being created. Planning Permission has been granted by the Argyll and Bute Council and it is hoped that the fundings of the 2.5M£ investment will be completed in time to start work during the third quarter 2014, with an aim to have the distillery starting operation by autumn 2015.

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