Work starts on Scotland’s first ‘vertical distillery’

  • Foundations take shape on £12 million Port of Leith whisky distillery
  • Flagship Edinburgh site a stone’s throw from Britannia
  • Ambition to make an ‘outstanding new style of Scotch’ using a modern approach
  • Scottish supply chain supporting jobs country-wide

Work has begun on a new £12 million Scotch whisky distillery which is set to become a tourist landmark for Scotland’s capital.

Foundations have just been laid for The Port of Leith Distillery which will rise 40 metres above the quayside a stone’s throw from the Royal Yacht Britannia.

The flagship distillery – due to open in 2022 – will feature a top floor double height whisky bar, with views to Edinburgh Castle, two copper stills and the capacity to produce up to million bottles of single malt a year.

The project is the brainchild of boyhood friends and distillery co-founders Patrick Fletcher and Ian Stirling [pictured], who hatched the idea, naturally enough, over a dram.

“We have always been passionate about whisky and it’s been a long-held dream for us to create an amazing, modern Scotch whisky distillery in our home city. It began ten years ago as a mad idea over a dram when we were working together in London and it grew from there,” Ian says.

“The catalyst was finding the location – we were approached by site owners Ocean Terminal and we could immediately see the potential. The site is not big – around a third of an acre – but the location is phenomenal, and we worked closely with Threesixty Architecture in Glasgow to develop the design,” Ian says.

The £12 million project is funded by a range of international private investors and whisky fans, including two unnamed drinks industry CEOs, and is being built by specialist Scottish firms including constructors Colorado Group (which built Raasay and Kingsbarns distilleries) and process engineers Allen Associates. The mash tuns and tanks will be by LH Stainless, whilst the copper stills are already being hand-crafted by the Speyside Copper Works in Elgin. 

The distillery is supporting more than 30 jobs during construction – including six staff in the distillery team – and will create around 50 long-term jobs once complete.

“Our ambition is to create an outstanding new style of Scotch using a modern approach, based on years of research we have already undertaken – and building on the remarkable heritage of the historic whisky district of Leith,” Ian says.

Given the project’s proximity to Britannia, visitor numbers play an important part in the distillery’s business plan.

However, online sales of their Oloroso sherry and award-winning Lind & Lime Gin – produced from their small stillhouse in Leith – means it is now less critical to the company’s plans, Patrick explains:

“Lockdown had an impact on our build programme and of course has made us look hard at our tourism projections, but in contrast Lind & Lime online has flourished. We are now selling in 14 markets worldwide and have just been selected as one of John Lewis’s ‘top gifts for Christmas’, plus we have just launched our own tawny port for the festive market.

“It has been really important for us to learn how to make and market our own spirit and build relationships with suppliers. Our sherry comes from Bodegas Baron – a 480-year-old family business in the heart of Jerez, and we will use their barrels to mature our own whisky, when the time comes,” Patrick says.

Historically Leith harbour was one of the key landing points for sherry from Spain and port from Portugal, and it was here that whisky merchants had the idea of using the newly emptied barrels to store their whisky in the bonded warehouses that lined the shore. And so, the whole idea of sherry and port matured whisky was born. 

“Although our distillery has a very modern outlook, we’re very proud to be bringing the whisky trade back to one of the places it all began,” Patrick concludes. 

Tags: BritanniaEdinburghPort of LeithscotchScotlandvertical distillery
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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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