Isle of Raasay Distillery
With the current boom in new Scotch whisky distilleries in full pace, we asked Alasdair Day of R&B Distillers Limited how things were progressing at Isle of Raasay Distillery.
Tell us a little about your distillery?
I started out in 2009 to recreate my Great Grandfather’s whisky The Tweeddale, by 2012 the supply of aged single malt fro 12 to 16 years old was near impossible to buy. It became clear that to grow the business we would need our own spirit in the long term. I set out to raise the investment for a Borders distillery and this is how I came to meet my now business partner and sole investor Bill Dobbie. We established R&B Distillers in July 2014 and set about building our first distillery on the Isle of Raasay. We are Scottish owned independent distillers and whisky blenders.
How the early period has been?
Our Isle of Raasay distillery started distilling on 14th September 2017. Our visitor centre opened on 15th January 2018. We are making a lightly peated single malt that reflects the rugged, wind swept island and the diverse geology of Raasay. The geology defines the water from our Celtic (Iron Age) well on site. The water has a high mineral content and is slightly “hard” (very unusual for a Scotch whisky distillery), as a result of running over the volcanic rock in the centre and highest point on Raasay (Dun Caan) before filtering through the very old Torridonian sandstone where our distillery sits and that forms the aquifer from which we draw our water. We use this water for the process and cooling but also for cask reduction for maturation in our bonded warehouse on site on Raasay. Again quite unusual these days. We also intend to use the same water for reducing to bottling strength, in effect adding the same water back into the cask & the bottle that was lost during distillation. A spirit of the island. We also have the best views of Skye and probably the best view of any distillery in Scotland.
Building a new distillery on an Island is not without its difficulties but we knew what we were taking on. I’m sure we have encounter all of the same challenges as other new distillery builds its just that we have a ferry to consider, a bit like building on Islay I suppose. The highlight so far for me was producing our first spirit in September and the new making having the smokey, fruit characteristics we are looking for.
Is your vision for the future unchanged?
We have been working with Allen Associates for 4 years, they are chemical engineers and have designed the process to produce the spirit we’re looking for. We have tried to build in as much flexibility into the process as we can. We are a new distillery and want to make the most of current technology while still producing a traditional Island Single Malt Scotch Whisky. From our contemporary building, long (115 hour) fermentations, cooling jackets on our wash backs, a cooling jacket of the lyne arm from the wash still, italian spirit safes and a 6 plate purifier we hope to produce a number of different recipes that we can blend together to produce our Isle of Raasay single malt. Last year we grew our own barley on Raasay, it was a variety trial to establish if we could find a variety that will ripen on Raasay. We harvested 3 of the 5 varieties, these have been dried and will shortly be malted. We intend to produce a batch of spirit from this Raasay Barley this year. We will be continuing with the barley trial this year. We believe in the sense of place, how this will influence and shape our Isle of Raasay single malt.
What you are looking forward to?
We are planning to a very limited release of special edition Raasay single malt at the end of 2020 and our first release of our core expression of Raasay single malt in 2021. We are looking forward to our first year of distillery tours and welcoming our visitors with tastings of Raasay while we wait, Borders and Tweeddale.
t: +44 (0) 1478 470178
Isle of Raasay Distillery. Borodale House. Isle of Raasay, Kyle. Scotland, IV40 8PB