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Speyburn distillery renovation completed

Speyburn, one of Scotland’s most picturesque and historic distilleries, has completed a two-year £5 million renovation and expansion of existing distillery buildings. The new distillery combines the very latest energy efficient technology with traditional techniques, stonework and craftsmanship.

The distillery's production capacity has been doubled from 1.8 million litres to over 4 million litres per year, making Speyburn the largest distillery in the Inver House Distillers group and allowing the brand to lay down stock for its core markets, expand into new territories and build its portfolio of malt whiskies. 

The sensitive renovation of existing distillery buildings was made using a blueprint created by distillery manager Bobby Anderson, the distillery team and local contractors, including Rothes-based Forsyths. As well as retaining four of the original Douglas Fir washbacks, 15 new stainless steel washbacks have been installed, a third still has been added now giving one large wash and two spirit stills.

There is a new eco-friendly thermol vapour recovery system to regenerate steam and improve efficiency by 20%. Distillery co-products  are transferred to the nearby CORDe (formally the Combination of Rothes Distillers) plant to be burned and used to make electricity for the grid

The investment comes as Speyburn reported significant growth in its core markets in 2015, with volumes rising by 44.5% and sales value by 28%

Speyburn is currently released in two core expressions - Bradan Orach and 10 Years Old – plus the limited edition US exclusive Arranta Casks. It is the only distillery to use the fresh water of the Granty Burn, a tributary of the River Spey famed for its exceptional purity, which runs close to the distillery site and gives Speyburn whiskies its distinctive character and flavour.

Extensive as the expansion has been, sustainability lies at its heart. The improvement in Speyburn's carbon footprint has yielded energy savings of more than 20%, equating to approximately 6,000,000kWhs per year.

In addition to installing a more energy efficient distillation system, Speyburn opted to modify existing infrastructure to house the new equipment rather than embark on construction of major new facilities. As a result, the distillery's unique original features have been maintained, while traditional methods of production continue to prevail.

Two new malt bins have been installed increasing capacity from two x 30 tonne storage bins to four x 30 tonne bins. There are daily, sometimes twice daily, deliveries of malt, averaging out at nine deliveries per week. The mill is a 10 tonne ‘Boby’ mill which grinds 5.6 tonnes of malt per mash.

The new larger mash tun has halved the mashing cycle time from eight and a half hours to four hours, and the bigger and shallower mash tun allows for the process to be accelerated without compromising quality of the wort.

As well as retaining four Douglas Fir wooden wash backs, the distillery has also added 15 stainless steel wash backs to service its production capacity increase. 18 wash backs fermenting at four-hour mashing cycle gives 72 hour fermentation, while the 19th wash back is either used for filling or emptying.

Martin Leonard, operations director at Inver House Distillers paid tribute to the distillery team as they gathered to celebrate with a dinner and dram on Thursday May 26: “Over the past two years we have seen a remarkable transformation of Speyburn Distillery. Our beautiful, very traditional site has been enhanced and developed for the future, very much in the spirit of our founder John Hopkins who made the great use of the natural resources here in Rothes, most importantly the Granty Burn, the natural stone and the compact space.

"We want to thank Bobby Anderson [distillery manager] and the full distillery team for all their hard work in delivering this ambitious investment and putting so much of their personal vision and skill into the project. We now have a distillery that will support our growth plans for Speyburn and our environmental objectives and we are proud of that achievement.”

6 June 2016 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor