Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment Richard Lochhead MSP officially re-opened the Chivas Brothers-owned Glen Keith distillery today.
The distillery has been ‘silent’ since 1999, but it was announced in 2012 that it would re-open to help the company continue to meet increasing worldwide demand for its luxury Scotch whiskies, which include world-renowned blends Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s and Royal Salute.
The Glen Keith re-opening is just one phase in a continued programme of investment for Chivas Brothers. The company has committed £40 million annual capital expenditure on its operations.
Other recent major investments have included the £10 million expansion of The Glenlivet Distillery in 2010, increasing its distillation capacity by 75%. In 2012 expansion work at Glenallachie, Longmorn, Glentauchers and Tormore distilleries – in addition to the Glen Keith project – increased the company’s malt distillation capacity by a further 25%, while in Paisley it opened a new super-premium bottling hall, focused on the hand-packaging of its highest-value expressions.
This programme of investment will culminate in the building of a brand new distillery at Carron on the River Spey, to open in 2014. Planning permission for the project was granted by Moray Council in April this year.
Declaring Glen Keith distillery officially open today, Mr Lochhead, who is also MSP for Moray, said: “The Scotch whisky industry is one of Scotland’s great success stories with exports hitting a record £4.3 billion in 2012. It also provides valuable jobs across rural Scotland, which in turn supports communities, particularly in Speyside where we have a concentration of distilleries. There are of course knock on benefits for other industry sectors such as tourism. Whisky can act as a draw for visitors curious to see where their favourite tipple is made, and for the local manufacturing sector who provide the fabrication skills for the whisky industry to continue to thrive.
“I do enjoy a wee dram myself and I’m always happy to see a local distillery like Glen Keith being brought back to life – it’s a great boost to the local area. This is a positive step which will play an important part in delivery of even greater success for Chivas Brothers and help them to market themselves to the world. I wish them every success.”
Christian Porta, Chivas Brothers Chairman and CEO, said: “It is wonderful to see this distillery re-opened and producing spirit once again. The fact that we are re-opening a silent distillery, and are soon to build a brand-new distillery in the region, shows just how strong the demand for our luxury Scotch whiskies is.
“With our extensive inventory of more than six million casks, and this new increased distilling capacity, we are well placed to continue to meet this demand, safeguarding the future of our award-winning brands for decades to come. The sweet, fruity spirit produced at Glen Keith, will be aged in oak casks and used in the Chivas Regal and Royal Salute blends, as it was in the past.”
Prior to re-opening, the distillery underwent a major upgrade, resulting in a 50% greater malt distillation capacity. Work included the installation of new malt storage facilities, and a new mash-house and tun-room, which accommodates the new mash tun along with six additional washbacks, bringing the total to 15. The distillery’s existing six still were also refurbished.
Environmental improvements at Glen Keith will make this distillery one of the company’s most energy efficient, with the heat generated during distillation being recycled within the process. The latest generation of still thermo compression systems has for the first time been incorporated into both wash and spirit distillations. This gives a further energy usage reduction of 15% compared to Chivas Brothers’ current most efficient distillery.
The investment at Glen Keith has already brought real benefits to the Speyside business community with a number of local contractors involved in the upgrade. Building work was undertaken by A.D. Walker of Banff, structural steel work by W.R. Simmers of Keith, and the distillery’s new wooden washbacks were built and installed by Joseph Brown Vats of Dufftown. Stills were refurbished by Forsyth Group of Rothes, while malt and grist handling was carried out by Clark & Sutherland in Keith.
Two companies from just outside Keith – L.H. Stainless and Advanced Electrics – carried out stainless steel piping and tanks installation and electrical works respectively, while C&A Innes of Keith upgraded the distillery’s water supply. Other local contractors at Glen Keith included G&A Construction of Dufftown, McKerron & Milne roofwork and McCormack’s scaffolding of Rothes, D Paterson steelwork of Elgin, and I Fraser & Sons electrical of Rothes. The new mash tun was constructed by Briggs of Burton.