Scotland’s most northern mainland whisky distillery at John O’Groats gets green light

A Scottish couple have been handed close to £200,000 to build a whisky distillery at John O’Groats.

Derek and Kerry Campbell secured £198,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE)

A new micro Scotch distillery is set to open in John O’Groats in 2021, after planning permission was secured for a 32,670 square foot facility which will house a distillery, visitor centre and bonded warehouse.

Husband and wife team Derek and Kerry Campbell secured £198,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to bring the John O’Groats distillery to life. 

It will become Scotland’s most northernly mainland whisky distillery, thanks to its location near to the coastline. The project will also offer a new tourist attraction to the coastal outpost, as well as creating six new jobs in its first year, including a Master Whisky Maker and Visitor Centre Manager.

The distillery will have the capacity to produce up to 60,000 litres of whisky each year and will be the first Scotch whisky distillery in John O’Groats since 1837. 

Keith Muir, HIE’s head of business growth for Caithness and Sutherland, said, as well as producing a brand-new whisky, the new site “will enhance the area’s wider visitor offering, notably around the North Coast 500.”

“All of this encourages visitors to stay in the area longer, which benefits all local businesses and communities.”

More whisky producers are creating visitor centres and tasting experiences at their distilleries to boost revenues. Spirits giant Edrington spent £140 million on a new distillery and visitor centre for its Speyside Scotch brand The Macallan, which went on to win the 2019 RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award last October.

Diageo has invested heavily in new facilities around Scotland. In April, its Scotch brand Johnnie Walker submitted plans to enhance the “visitor experiences” at its Cardhu and Clynelish distilleries.

Argyll & Bute Council planners also approved an application from Diageo in October to fully restore the buildings of the ‘lost’ Port Ellen distillery, which was originally opened in 1824, and construct a new still house.

Andrew Mowat, manager at the Seaview Hotel in John O’Groats, said the development of Scotland’s most northerly distillery is “really exciting for the area”, and also complements plans for a mill and brewery that are under way.

“It will also help increase dwell time in John O’Groats,” he said, “attract more visitors, increase employment and utilise a currently undeveloped site.

Muir also welcomed the improvement it will make to the look and feel of John O’Groats’ current tourist attraction offering end of the road attraction, “bringing a long disused site back into productive use.”

Founder Kerry Campbell said: “With a longstanding interest in the whisky industry, I began to truly appreciate quality Scotch whisky around 12 years ago and since then have developed a growing passion for Scotland’s national drink.

“We believe the whisky we will produce will be unlike that from any other distillery, due to our coastal location in John O’Groats and the impact the local climate will have on our spirit as it matures.

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