Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Amber Lights: Whisky distilleries are going with the grain again

Cutting tariffs a "win-win" says SWA.
The arrival of Scotland’s newest grain distillery has barely caused a ripple.

Although they are vitally important to the whisky industry and wider spirits industry, grain distilleries rarely make headlines.

Yet, without them, the industry would shrink to a shadow of its former self.

Hence, the arrival of Scotland’s newest grain distillery has barely caused a ripple.

The cognoscenti tend to wax lyrical over malt whiskies, but ignore grain whiskies and distilleries, despite 80-90% of Scotch whiskies sold worldwide being blends containing 50-70% grain whisky.

One reason for this acclaim gap is, frankly, aesthetic. Most malt distilleries sit in attractive rural settings and have those eye-catching copper stills.

In contrast, grain distilleries are vast-output industrial plants which, to the untrained eye, could be oil refineries or chemical works.

Our whisky writer Brian Townsend.

Almost all single grains are – in contrast to malts – rather bland, hence few are ever bottled.

During the industry’s 1980s downturn, a score of distilleries were closed or mothballed, including the grain distilleries Cambus, Carsebridge, Caledonian, Dumbarton, Strathmore and Garnheath.

The handful of surviving grain distilleries included North British, Girvan, Invergordon, Strathclyde, Loch Lomond (which also distils malts), Cameronbridge near Leven and Port Dundas in Glasgow, though it was closed by Diageo in 2010, ironically the year French firm La Martiniquaise opened Starlaw/Glen Turner grain distillery at Bathgate.

Grain distilleries use wheat (North British uses French maize) mixed with 20% high diastase barley to create the alcoholic wash, distilled around-the-clock in column or Coffey stills, producing strong (90%-plus) spirit.

Indeed, grain distilleries generally split their output into grain whisky, which is diluted and casked, and neutral spirit used to make gin, vodka and other drinks.

The craft gin explosion means demand for neutral spirit has surged, hence the need for more grain distillery capacity. This prompted Irish distiller John Teeling to sell off his

Cooley whisky distillery and build a vast new grain distillery to sell spirit to all comers.

It may also have spurred the Jackson family, who grow wheat and barley at Charlesfield near St Boswells, to open a big new on-site grain distillery, Scotland’s first for a decade, and probably the first-ever grain distillery in the Borders. It is a venture to which one can only wish every success.

More in this series…

Already a subscriber? Sign in