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First Inverness distillery in 130 years throws open its doors

Uile-bheist distillery's Jon Erasmus standing outisde building sign
Jon Erasmus at the new Uilebheist brewery and distillery in Inverness. Image: Spey.

Inverness’ first distillery in 130 years has opened reconnecting the Highland capital with its lost whisky and brewing history.

The £7.5 million Uile-bheist distillery and brewery on the River Ness, which is powered by a low carbon sustainability centre on site, is tipped to attract 100 tour visits per day in peak season.

Around 40 jobs will be created by Uile-bheist’s operations, in production, tours, administration, marketing and indirectly.

Future phases will see the creation of a distilling “campus” with increased capacity, a bonded warehouse with shopping, plus tap room, tasting and visitor spaces.

First distillery in 130 years opens in Inverness. Image: Heartland Media

Inverness, once Scotland’s malting hub, was home to the Glen Mhor, Glen Albyn and Millburn distilleries, with rare bottles still fetching high prices.

However, the distilleries were all shut in the infamous “whisky loch” days of the 1980s, when global production outstripped petering demand, leading to closures across the Highlands.

Uile-bheist, Gaelic for “monster”, is the first distillery to open in the city since 1892, with the first casks being filled in the coming days.

Its signature five craft ales, ready by early April will be the first beers brewed in Inverness for 34 years.

Our scale is craft, not volume”

Owner Jon Erasmus

Uile-bheist will produce a craft lager, pale ale, IPA, white IPA and a stout, with the first beers on the bar by early April.

Uile-bheist tour visitors will be able to taste, dine and stay during their visit.

Uile-bheist is partnered on adjacent sites on the Ness Bank by the Glen Mhor Hotel and Waterside Restaurant, also owned by Uile-bheist founders, Jon and Victoria Erasmus.

“Our scale is craft, not volume,” said owner Jon Erasmus, whose first application for a brewery on the current Ness bank site was knocked back in 2014.

Jon Erasmus
Jon Erasmus at the new Uilebheist brewery and distillery in Inverness. Image: Spey

“Our clean energy process, using shallow water wells, has been described as exemplary.

“It’s great to bring whisky distilling and brewing back to the city but we also wanted a high level of design specification throughout, from the stills to the dramming area, to the tap room.

“If people have travelled from New York or Tokyo, or if they’ve seen a lot of other distilleries, we want them to come here and think: I really like what they’ve done, here.”

Water and energy for Uile-bheist’s whisky production comes from the River Ness through a district heating system which uses shallow water wells to fire heat pumps; a system being eyed by local authorities.

Technology imported from Germany

Water is treated by fluorescent light with the only grid requirement being electricity, partly provided by the glass-fronted building’s roof-top solar installations.

The production of the low carbon whisky and craft beer comes through a dual technology developed by, and imported from, German brewing company and coppersmith, Kaspar Schulz.

Master brewer, Bruce Smith, who last worked for Innis and Gun, added: “We are using an efficient set-up which effectively ‘shares’ the equipment up to a point in the initial process, with some subtle differences in recipe and process.

“Thereafter the processes for the craft beer and the whisky obviously differ significantly.

Outside of Uile-bheist distillery and brewery
Five craft ales will be ready by early April. Image: Heartland Media

“With our whisky, we are looking to forge our own path. We are not going to bind ourselves to the traditions of the 1800s. We want to be a little experimental.

“Basically, we will release the first whisky only when we are proud of it and feel it truly represents the brand.”

Uile-bheist enlisted Melbourne-based pop culture illustrator, Ken Taylor, who has worked with Jack White, The Pixies and Pearl Jam, to design their “monster” motif.

Large scale installations by the designer, who also created posters for the films Up, Detective Pikachu and How To Train Your Dragon, adorn the tap room and tour space walls.

Bridge over River Ness
Water will come from River Ness. Image: Shutterstock

“Whisky tourism has changed massively in the last five years,” said Mr Erasmus, who hopes to attract some of the near 300,000 annual Inverness visitors to the distillery.

“You have Johnnie Walker on Edinburgh’s Princes Street and Macallan investing heavily in visitor experience. It is pointless doing this unless your emphasis is on quality.”

Uile-bheist will produce 200-300 casks of Highland single malt per year, rising to 500-600 in development phase 3.

Around 350,000 litres of craft beer a year will be produced on-site, piped directly to the visitor tap room adjacent to the brewing floor.

Tours start 1 March

A limited “discovery” tour programme begins on March 1 with a full hourly tour programme starting on April 1.

Investors can now purchase the first limited run of 100 casks by emailing