Bunnahabhain begins £10.5m upgrade

South African drinks group Distell has put the wheels in motion on a £10.5 million (US$13.97m) upgrade of Islay distillery Bunnahabhain.

Plans for the upgrade were first revealed in 2017, with Derek Scott, brand director for malts at Distell, confessing that historically Bunnahabhain has been “under invested in”.

The three-year refurbishment programme aims to create a new ‘brand home’ for the distillery, located at the most northerly point of the island.

The new visitor centre will include a café and retail space, and will be located on the coast, with views of Bunnahabhain Bay and the Sound of Islay (a narrow strait between the islands of Islay and Jura).

Distell aims to have the visitor centre open to members of the public by 2020.

While several of the Scotch whisky distillery’s original buildings will be restored, others will be removed and relocated to create more space. It is hoped this will allow better operational flow across the site and give an improved experience for visitors.

Four warehouse buildings have already been demolished, and work has commenced to upgrade the existing pumphouse.

More than 99% of the materials processed during the demolition have been recycled, with the majority set aside to be reused at the distillery.

Additional improvements will include building a new filling store, refurbishing the production building, and also the six cottages alongside the distillery, which will be used as holiday accommodation.

Scott said: “Our investment programme here at Bunnahabhain is about improving the operational side of our distillery for the long-term future.

“The plans aim to make the navigation of the site much easier for the visitor and to, in simple terms, declutter it.

“This will ensure the buildings are more efficient from a storage point of view and located in better suited, more accessible locations to the production buildings.

“Furthermore, we are committed to reducing the environmental impact of the works. The whisky industry is starting to be more environmentally aware and our achievement of recycling over 99% of materials shows, with a little bit of extra effort, it is remarkable what we can achieve.”

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Author: Melita Kiely {authorlink}