I must get my news out before all the information i gleaned from my visit to the Dornoch distillery in July becomes obsolete – such is the progress up there in the Highlands. It was still a building site when i went up there but now it’s verging on fully operational.
Despite having a function to set up, a wedding reception to organise and a bar to run, Phil very generously found the time to show me around. ’Setting up a distillery’, he said, ‘with logistical and financial limitations requires clear goals and clear solutions’.
The goal seems clear – to produce old style [Black Bowmore] whisky using traditional, small batch, pot still methods. So that means direct fire stills. That’ll be done using large industrial paella burners which had arrived that day.
Perhaps the biggest logistical limitation is the space, set within the old fire station at the back of the Dornoch hotel, which in reality is a very small barn. it’s literally one room which [utilising the high roof], will have a split level to house all the equipment – some of that equipment being square, again for practical reasons
In July they were waiting on a hot liquor tank, a column still, an alembic spirit still and four washbacks made from European wood. By October, all of that equipment had been installed.
They will be using/sourcing organic grains and even organic casks. Their casks will be temporarily stored in an ad hoc container which will have enough room for the first few years of production. Back in July they were storing the crowd-funded octave casks still wrapped in cellophane and a number of demijohns. Currently the container is full of empty casks, ex-organic PX & oloroso from Spain.
Furthermore, they have been investigating botanicals for their mill-to-still gin and yeast strains for the beer. They are looking at old [1960’s] yeast strains from Scotland and as far afield as the US and France for instance.
The door to the left of where the main sliding door for the old fire engines is [was], will be glassed and serve as a viewing gallery for the general public to look in at the distillery room. This is also where events [like the anniversary parties] will be stage.
It’s hoped that Simon & Phil will be producing spirit this month. I’ll be knocking on Dornoch’s door next year to see the distillery in full operation.