The £7.5 million (US$8.9m) Uile-bheist distillery has officially opened, marking the first new facility in Inverness for 130 years.
Plans for the new whisky distillery and brewery on River Ness were first revealed in June 2022.
The facility is powered by a low-carbon sustainability centre on site.
Further phases of the site will see the creation of a distilling ‘campus’, with increased capacity, a bonded warehouse with shopping, and enhanced tap room, tasting and visitor spaces.
Water and energy for Uile-bheist’s whisky production comes from the River Ness through a ‘pioneering’ district heating system which uses shallow water wells to fire heat pumps. The site is also partly powered by a rooftop solar installation.
Inverness, which was 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 closed in 1980s when global production outstripped ‘petering demand’.
Owner Jon Erasmus said: “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. Everything is photogenic.”
Uile-bheist will produce 200 to 300 casks of Highland single malt per year, rising to 500-600 in phase three. Around 350,000 litres of craft beer will be produced annually.
The production of the low-carbon whisky and beer comes through a dual technology developed by Germany’s Kaspar Schulz, the oldest brewery equipment supplier in the world.
Master brewer Bruce Smith 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.
“With our whisky, we are looking to forge our own path. We are not going to bind ourselves to 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.”
The distillery expects to have 100 tour visits per day during the peak season. Eramus hopes to attract some of the near 300,000 annual visitors to Inverness to the distillery.
A limited ‘Discovery’ tour programme began on 1 March, with hourly tours being offered from 1 April.
The distillery revealed its cask programme last summer, offering 100 casks of its whisky for sale.