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Issue 58 - Grand designs

Whisky Magazine Issue 58
August 2006


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Grand designs

There are numerous financial risks involved in establishing a new malt whisky distillery. But how do you make sure the whisky you produce is any good? Richard Jones reports

It's not the most expensive mistake you could make in life, but it certainly doesn't come cheap.

The economics of setting up a new malt whisky distillery alone are pretty terrifying.

About £800,000 for a small distillery of reasonable quality according to Dr Harry Riffkin, managing director of consultant chemists to the whisky industry Tatlock and Thomson.

However that figure fails to include the costs of stock and running costs: all that malted barley, all those barrels, all the other countless associated running costs before you begin to see a return on your investment. A minimum of three years legally in Scotland, approaching eight years if you plan to make a single malt of real quality. Building a malt whisky distillery from scratch is certainly no ‘get rich quick' scheme.

But putting finances to one side (admittedly not that easy when it's your money), how do you know if your new whisky will be any good?

You've spent all that money on mashtuns, washbacks, stills and the like, but when the green light is finally turned on, can you be sure that the new make spirit that emerges at the other end is decent? And is it possible to project what will happen to this spirit three, eight or 15 years down the line?

“If the owner can identify what spirit they are looking for, you can nowadays go a long way towards creating that,” begins Dr Jim Swan, drinks consultant and the man who has worked on numerous new distillery openings in recent years.

“If someone comes along...

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