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French drinks giant pledges £88m to expand production at two Speyside distilleries

Aberlour distillery is set for a significant facelift with an upgraded visitor centre which will draw more whisky fans to the area and boost local tourism.
Aberlour distillery is set for a significant facelift with an upgraded visitor centre which will draw more whisky fans to the area and boost local tourism.

Drinks giant Pernod Ricard has said is “betting big on the future of Scotch ” as it unveils an £88 million upgrade of two whisky distilleries.

Chivas Brothers, the Scotch whisky business of Pernod Ricard, said it will be able to produce an extra 14 million litres of alcohol at two sites, at Aberlour and Miltonduff near Elgin, by mid-2025.

The company said the investment is “further confirmation of Chivas Brothers’ commitment to Scotland” as well as a reaction to the growing global demand for Scotch whisky.

Aberlour whisky is a “cult favourite” Scotch and one of the best selling malts in France.

The Aberlour distillery, which has been producing whisky since 1879 will see its production capacity double, the firm said.

The group said the extra capacity will support growing demand for its “cult favourite” Scotch which it said is its the best-selling single malt whisky in France and has made “significant gains across Asia”.

Boost for tourism

The distillery will also undergo a significant facelift with an upgraded visitor centre which will draw more whisky fans to the area and boost local tourism. A new still house will be equipped with large windows providing visitors with views into the nearby woods and the River Spey, which provides the water to make the spirit.

The expansion at Miltonduff will consist of a new, state-of-the-art sustainable distillery built next to the existing facility.

The distillery will include a bio plant and evaporator, making an extra 10m litres a year.

Artists impression of Chivas Brothers’ upgraded Miltonduff distillery

The spirit produced at Miltonduff is used to produce a number of blended whiskies including Ballantine’s, which has enjoyed a 23% boost in global sales in the company’s most recent half year.

A spokesman for the company said the investment was expected to have a “positive impact on job creation in the region”.

Green whisky

The distilleries will also feature new technology that will support the firm’s ambition to be a carbon neutral distiller by 2026.

The use of mechanical vapour recompression (MVR) fan technology enables significant energy recovery by compressing vapor which then rises in temperature and is sent back to heat the stills during the distillation process.

Last year, the company announced plans to roll out MVR technology across all viable sites by 2026 following a pilot study at its Glentauchers distillery which resulted in energy reductions of 90% on a single pot still there.

Chivas’ Glentauchers Distillery, on Speyside was the pilot for new low carbon distilling technlogy.

Jean-Etienne Gourgues, chairman and chief executive of Chivas Brothers said the company has weathered some “challenging” conditions during the global pandemic but it was now set for growth.

Chivas Brothers chairman and chief executive Jean-Etienne Gourgues.

“Scotch has demonstrated its resilience as a category over the past few challenging years and in the process has opened new avenues for growth,” he said.

“This expansion will allow us to increase our volume to capitalise on the increased demand and interest in Scotch, but also supports our drive to reduce emissions in line with our sustainability ambitions.

“We’re once again betting big on the future of Scotch so we can bring in new consumers to the category and continue to shape a sustainable future of whisky.”

MSP Richard Lochhead at Strathisla Distillery in Moray which produces Chivas Regal. Photo by JASON HEDGES

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead welcomed the investment and said its focus on low carbon production  would make the facilities “fit for the future”.

He added: “Achieving a just transition to net zero will only be possible if we also protect jobs and through investments like this, we can start investing in the technologies of the future to help businesses grow, create more jobs and ensure a sustainable future for us all.

“This particular investment in these two Speyside distilleries will help propel Chivas Brothers to carbon free distilling and help Scotland achieve its net zero ambitions.”

Trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said Scotch whisky is a “UK exporting success story”. Photo Leon Neal/PA Wire

The UK’s trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan added her support and hailed the investment as “excellent news”.

She said: “Scotch whisky is a UK exporting success story and this excellent news will see some of the best products made in Scotland, sold to the world – supporting jobs and economic growth and helping us to level up the country.

“It’s great to see Chivas Brothers adopt new ground-breaking energy efficient technology, helping deliver the Government’s net zero strategy, and maximising export opportunities through green UK innovation.”

Pernod Ricard-owned makes a range of Scotch whisky brands including Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s, Royal Salute and the Glenlivet.

Chivas was founded in 1836 by two penniless brothers, James and John Chivas, who were raised on the family farm at Strathythan near Ellon, where they were two of 14 children.

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