Major plans unveiled for Bunnahabhain Islay

Bunnahabhain Distillery on Islay is in line for a multi-million pound make-over after plans were lodged with Argyll and Bute Council’s Planning Department. If approved the plans would see the Distillery change dramatically, offering improvements logistically, from a production perspective, and also a much enhanced visitor experience.

Removal of Old Warehouses

Part of the proposed plans see the removal a number of the existing old warehouses, the filling store and the current shop which is located in the building beside the pier. Also destined for removal are the old village hall and the run down houses which once provided homes for the distillery workers. The cottages on Shore Road are planned to be refurbished with a view to bringing them back as holiday lets. The newfound space which will be freed up will enable the articulated lorries which deliver barley and remove spirit, casks and draff, to gain access from the the top end of the distillery and avoid the route they currently must take around the tight bend and down into the heart of the distillery. Continue reading....

A New Visitor Centre

A new custom-build visitors’ centre, complete with much improved visitor parking, is also in the plans. Details were unveiled at a meeting of Islay Community Council, held in the Gaelic Centre, in Bowmore, where Alan Revie, Distell Capital Projects Manager, Europe, outlined the plans and answered questions from members of the public. He was joined at the meeting by Rob Newton, of GVA Planning, and Ross Black, of GVA Architecture. Alan revealed that the reduction in warehousing would leave sufficient capacity for up to 12,500 casks at Bunnahabhain with the remainder warehoused on the mainland. South African owners, Distell, which also has Deanston Distillery, in Doune, near Stirling, and Tobermory Distillery, on Mull, in its portfolio and it is understood that the three distilleries will share warehousing on the mainland.

An artist’s impression of the proposed re-modelling of Bunnahabhain distillery.

Housing at Bunnahabhain

Concern was expressed at the meeting at the rationale behind knocking down housing at a time when affordable homes were in short supply on Islay. “We have held discussions with the Housing Office at Argyll and Bute Council but it was felt that it was not financially viable to bring the houses back into a liveable condition and reinstate the necessary amenities,” explained Alan. However, in response to further comment he agreed that they would speak with Housing Associations to see if there was an appetite to retain the houses.

Impact on Visitor Numbers

He also revealed that the current visitor numbers of 10,000 per annum were not expected to increase dramatically, but that the new visitor centre would help enhance the experience and extend the amount of time visitors spent at Bunnahabhain. With the road to the distillery now shared by Ardnahoe, Distillery Manager, Andrew Brown, explained that the reduction in warehousing could result in fewer lorries going to and from the distillery – transporting casks requires more lorry capacity than transporting spirit.

The plans to develop Bunnahabhain Distillery, Islay’s most remote distillery, were welcomed by Fraser Thornton, Distell’s European Managing Director. “I am delighted we are proceeding with plans for a major refurbishment at the home of Distell’s flagship malt – Bunnahabhain,” said Fraser. “We have been steadily laying down inventory to support the long term growth of the brand and we believe that this refurbishment will enhance our visitor experience and attract more people to the north of the island,” he added.


Should the planning application be successful it is anticipated that the work would be carried out in phases and completed over the next two to three years.

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Article published with kind permission of The Ileach Newspaper