The beautiful copper pot stills of the Brora distillery, which have lain at rest since the distillery closed its doors in 1983, have been wakened from their slumber for the first stage of a journey that will see them once again making the finest single malt Scotch whisky.
Copper stills are the beating heart of any distillery and the original stills will once more be the centrepiece of the Brora Distillery as it is brought back into production over the next two years.
The pair of stills were carefully removed from the distillery before being transported 200 miles to Diageo Abercrombie coppersmiths in Alloa where they will be meticulously refurbished by highly skilled copper smiths.
Diageo Abercrombie has the richest heritage of crafting copper stills in the industry, with over two centuries of history dating back to 1790. Today the coppersmiths combine the age-old craft skills with modern technology to produce the highest quality handcraft engineering.
The stills have been surveyed using ultrasonic technology and they are in good condition, but require refurbishment to prepare them to return to fulltime distillation. The team at Abercrombie will refurbish Brora’s stills by hand and prepare them to once again produce the outstanding liquid that has made the distillery’s Scotch world famous.
Senior Chargehand Coppersmith Jim McEwan, who oversaw the moving of the stills, said: “Abercrombie coppersmiths last worked on these very same stills in the early 1980s before the distillery closed its doors, so it’s a great priviledge for us to work on them now and to get them ready to produce spirit again.
“They are beautiful stills and they are actually in really good condition, but after 35 years of rest they do need a bit of loving care to get them ready to distill again. It will be a real pleasure to work on these stills.”
Copper stills are a crucial part of the unique signature of every Scotch whisky distillery, with the size and shape of stills being a crucial factor in the spirit character the distillery produces. Stewart Bowman, Brora Distillery Project Implementation Manager, said: “This is another important milestone in our journey to bring Brora Distillery back to life.
“Work is now well underway to meticulously restore the distillery buildings back to their former glory, and it is quite an emotional moment to see the stills beginning their journey back to fulltime spirit production.”
Under the plans approved by Highland Council last month, work is underway to entirely dismantled the distillery’s historic still house, which dates back almost two centuries to 1819, before it will be meticulously rebuilt stone-by-stone so that it retains its original character but is structurally sound and capable of coming back into production as a working distillery.
The restoration of Brora Distillery is part of a £35 million investment programme that will also see the iconic Port Ellen Distillery on Islay brought back into production.
Diageo is currently investing over £185 million in Scotch whisky experiences in Scotland. As well as the Brora and Port Ellen revivals, the company is investing £150 million to transform its existing 12 distillery visitor attractions across Scotland and to open a global Johnnie Walker brand experience in Edinburgh.