Grantown distillery to have the 'wow' factor
A NEW whisky distillery with the "wow" factor on the doorstep of Grantown is initially aiming to attract 50,000 visitors per year.
The public had the chance to see the eye-catching modern cask shaped design for the first time on Tuesday afternoon for the development at Craggan by Speymalt Whisky Distributors Ltd.
The proposals were unveiled at Grantown's YMCA as part of the pre-planning application and there was plenty of positive feedback.
The distillery – which is yet to be named – will boast a visitor centre open year round and will initially employ up to 10 people.
The curved building by architects NORR features grass roofs and includes a purpose built visitor "drum" with retail, office and conference space.
An entertainment area is on the top floor for food, beverage and whisky tastings.
The firm trades as Gordon & MacPhail and also owns Forres' Benromach Distillery.
Matthew Garstang, the company's strategic project manager, said: "This is a new distillery – we are not trying to recreate anything. We do not mill our own barley – not many people do now. So it is not about putting a pagoda roof on for the sake of having one. This is a modern distillery but one which blends into its incredible location.
"The reason for the curved shape of the distillery is two-fold. One to encompass and screen the service yard in the middle and the other is to provide aspects of the magnificent views."
The distillery will be nearly 400 metres from the A95 Aviemore-Grantown road.
Mr Garstang said: "We want the site to be visible; it has the wow factor and is a big investment and a legacy for the company. We want people to see it and call in and for the local community to benefit."
Gordon & MacPhail looked at six potential sites across Scotland including in the Highlands. But they were immediately sold when they visited Craggan.
Managing director Ewen Mackintosh, said: "We thought hold on a minute – this is something special; right on the Spey, by the A95 and looking towards the Cairngorms.
"All the feedback I have heard today has been really positive – if not what they were expecting.
"Why make it look like something traditional when the concept is about modernity and innovation?"
Of course the actual malt whisky will not be available for at least 10 to 12 years and as yet there is no name for the product.
Mr Mackintosh joked: "The design has been the easy part of it. The name needs to be appropriate to the location and our concept but one that we can also get registered and will work worldwide."
As for their site, he said: "We are surprised that no-one has done it. This is the gateway into whisky country and there is the opportunity to pull people away from the A9 too."
There have been a couple of meeting with Strathspey Steam Railway company which will eventually run close by.
Mr Mackintosh said: "What an experience for someone from Japan, China or Taiwan to arrive and depart by steam train."
The distillery plans could submitted next month with groundworks starting by end of year if all runs smoothly.
Mr Mackintosh said: "I would love to be making whisky here by the end of 2020. It would be a great way to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the business."
Local Highland councillor Bill Lobban, who attended the exhibition, said: "This is perhaps the catalyst the town needs to really provide an increase in tourism."
Tim Keats and wife Hilary visited from Dulnain Bridge.
She said: "I like the way they have tried to make the storehouse part of the environment by putting grass over it so the impact is not in your face and will melt more into the environment."
Mr Keats said: "It definitely does not look like a huge industrial complex. It will be a great addition to the local economy."
Grantown resident Alistair Fraser said: "It is super. It's not what I expected. It looks great and will bring a lot of people in which will help the shops."
A Gordon & MacPhail spokeswoman said yesterday: "We had more than 150 people at the exhibition and the response was overwhelmingly positive."
Grantown distillery plan to be unveiled