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The most northernly distillery in the world opens soon

The first ever distillery in the Shetlands is due to open in 2024 following discussions with specialist business advisers.

It comes after the idea for the distillery was floated more than a decade go by friends Martin Watt, Caroline MacIntyre and Calum Miller. In 2022 they found a site for the distillery, and since that date have been planning the build and potential opening of the facility.

As a result, the Lerwick Distillery will open this year, although a formal opening date is yet to be announced.

Watt and Miller have backgrounds in architecture and accountancy, offering a good mix for the initial project, with MacIntyre working as a sales director. They have bought on board Ian Millar as the master distiller, who has more than 50 years experience in the whisky industry, having worked for a number of big players, including nearly 25 years with William Grant & Sons.

As per the law, spirits will not be allowed to legally be called whisky until three years of maturation, but the distillery is planning to cover operational costs in the first period through a new-make spirit called Haad Still, a traditional Shetland phrase for ‘hold on’, and therefore informing consumers to bide their time for the whisky to mature in the meantime.

In addition to whisky production, the distillery is set to become a tourist destination, with tours for customers.

Business advice

Following the acquisition of the site, the team sought advice from specialist consultants Business Gateway, after a recommendation from Shetland Islands Council, who offered guidance on how to raise funds and capital as well as other support towards the opening of the facility.

An initial funding target of £1m was reached and exceeded, meaning the distillery has been able to secure a site that is four times what the team had originally planned.

Martin Watt, Director of Lerwick Distillery said the support that it received from the consultants was great, and pointed out things that they had missed in its business plan – as well as contacts to help develop the distillery.

The £4,000 funding resulted in a extra £682,000 share capital investment.

Adviser Diane Abernethy said that Shetland was the “last area” of the UK without a distillery, and helping the Lerwick team achieve its goal “had been fantastic.”

She said: “It’s an exciting brand and journey they’re embarking on and will give such a boost to tourism in the area and the local economy.”

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