Benriach distillery is set to re-open four years after it was mothballed by Pernod Ricard following their takeover of Chivas Brothers in 2001.
Situated three miles south of Elgin, next to its larger and better-known neighbour Longmorn, the distillery dates from 1898. It was closed from 1900 to 1965, when it was rebuilt by the Glenlivet Distillers Ltd. During those 65 years only the floor maltings remained working in order to supply Longmorn, and they still survive, despite closing in 1999.
Benriach was purchased from Chivas in a deal worth in the region of £5.4m by the Stirlingshire-based Benriach Distillery Company Ltd, which numbers Southern African businessmen Geoff Bell and Wayne Kiefwetter among its principals, along with whisky industry veteran Billy Walker.
Walker has spent 30 years in the business, working with Allied Distillers, Inver House, Chivas and Whyte and Mackay, and is a former director of Burn Stewart Distillers.
He says: “Our ambition was always to acquire a single malt distillery, and we wanted one that had charm, a good location, heritage, and we wanted access to stocks. We’ve bought a substantial inventory with the distillery, ranging from relatively young spirit to casks from 1966.
“We expect that by September we will be offering 12, 16, and 20 year old expressions, and a peated version which was distilled principally between 1993 and 1996.” Limited edition releases are likely to follow, with a range of finishes, cask types, and levels of peating.
“Hopefully there’ll be steam from the distillery boiler by July,” says
Walker. “Chivas are re-commissioning it for us, but it’s actually in very good condition.”
Alan McConnochie has been recruited from Tobermory distillery to manage the new Benriach operation.