The distillery, which cost £6.7m and has created around 30 jobs, is the first operational single malt distillery in central Edinburgh since 1925 — the year that Andrew Usher’s Edinburgh Distillery (aka Glen Sciennes) closed. In recent years, the nearest malt whisky distillery to the capital's historic centre has been Chain Pier Distillery in Granton, which was opened by Halewood Wines & Spirits in late 2018. However, that site is not open to the public. Until now, the closest malt distillery offering tours has been Diageo’s Glenkinchie, which sits around 15 miles away from the city centre in Pencaitland, East Lothian. However, Holyrood will not be the sole Edinburgh whisky distillery offering tours for long as there are a number of other distillery projects currently in the works.
Located on the edge of Holyrood Park and close to popular Edinburgh Festival Fringe venues The Pleasance and George Square, the new distillery has been built in a three-storey Class B Listed former railway goods shed dating back to 1831. Visitors will find the site is within easy walking distance of the city’s main attractions, including The National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Looking to the future, the distillery team will focus on ‘the creation of maximum flavour’ in the spirits they produce and all are committed to using ‘innovative production approaches’, such as a combination of yeasts and different types of malted barley, including multiple varieties and malting specifications. Using these techniques, the team aim to initially produce four core flavours of whisky: smoky, sweet, spicy, and fruity/floral.
Spirit production will be handled by distillery manager Jack Mayo, previously of The Glasgow Distillery, alongside distillers Ollie Salvesen and Elizabeth Machin.
Holyrood Distillery is the brainchild of Canadian Rob Carpenter who, in 2013, first had the idea for a distillery and visitor experience in central Edinburgh. Rob, who founded the Canadian branch of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society together with his wife Kelly, has brought his vision to life in partnership with co-founder David Robertson, who has 25 years’ experience in the industry.
To fund the project, Carpenter and his team raised £5.8m of investment. This included a £1.5m investment from the Scottish Investment Bank, the largest single investor, and investments from about 60 private individuals from around the world.
Holyrood Distillery’s founder Rob Carpenter said: “After all the hard work of the team, it’s a really special moment to now see Holyrood Distillery open, and we’re looking forward to creating a range of delicious whiskies, gins, liqueurs and other spirits.
“This distillery is open to everyone, whether you’re a local resident or you’re just visiting the city for a day. We’ve worked hard to create a series of tours that are both fun and informative so they appeal to a wide range of visitors, from connoisseurs of whisky and gin to those who are simply curious to learn more about these spirits for the first time. Our guides are very excited to get started so please come by and visit us.”
Kerry Sharp, director of the Scottish Investment Bank, said: “I’m pleased that our investment has supported the development, by an outstanding team, of this new distillery and visitor experience in Scotland's capital.
“Tourism supports more than 30,000 jobs in Edinburgh, with more than £1m per day being spent on food and drink – and Holyrood Distillery is a fantastic addition to both these sectors. We look forward to working more with the team going forward, helping them to maximise the full potential of the attraction.”
Bookings for Holyrood’s range of daily guided distillery tours are now open via its website, with tickets for adults starting at £14.