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Edinburgh whisky distillery gets green light

Single malt whisky distilling is a step closer to returning to Scotland’s capital after a 90-year absence. The City of Edinburgh Council has approved an application to develop the Engine Shed building and site on St Leonard’s Lane into a single malt whisky distillery and visitor centre.

The Holyrood Park Distillery is a joint development by David Robertson, former master distiller for The Macallan, and Rob and Kelly Carpenter, founders of the Canadian branch of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It will be Edinburgh’s first single malt whisky distillery since Glen Sciennes closed in the 1920s. Work will start on site in the coming months and the business aims to start distilling and open its doors to the public in 2018. As a small-scale operation, it will initially produce only 53,000 litres of alcohol per year, resulting in around 140,000 bottles of mature single malt in 8 to 12 years’ time. 

The Holyrood Park Distillery will employ approximately 25 staff at varying levels, from trainees, visitor hosts, experienced distillery operators and production managers.

Following the City of Edinburgh Council’s decision in August last year to enter into a lease with The Holyrood Park Distillery, the team behind the development has held consultations with local residents and businesses to shape plans, and has taken neighbours’ feedback on board in the approved proposals.

David Robertson, project lead of The Holyrood Park Distillery, says:  “After years of hard work, our team’s dream of bringing single malt whisky distilling back to Edinburgh is set to become a reality.

“We worked closely with local residents and businesses to build a proposal that will benefit the local community as well as Edinburgh as a whole.

“Work will start later this year and throughout 2017 and by 2018 we hope to be producing beautiful, hand-crafted spirits at our world-class distillery and visitor experience in the heart of Edinburgh.” 

The distillery will also host an educational facility to be used as a community and school resource for learning about distilling and the rich history of the site. Visitors will be able to enjoy a range of spirits as part of the tour experience and ambitions stretch to establishing a weekend market for local crafts and products in the courtyard. 

Edinburgh has a long and proud history of whisky production. Back in the late 1700s there were eight licensed distilleries and it is estimated that there may have been as many as 400 illegal stills. Urban production fell out of fashion but is currently enjoying a boom, with distilleries popping up in some of the world’s iconic cities including New York, London, Dublin, Glasgow, Portland, Nashville, New Orleans, LA, Detroit, San Francisco and Austin.

Glen Sciennes was the last single malt whisky distillery to operate in Edinburgh, and was also located in the St. Leonards area. The distillery’s maltings were sited near the Engine Shed before its closure in 1925 and later demolition.

7 September 2016 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor