Tuesday, 01 December 2015

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Production to restart at abandoned whisky distillery

A former distillery that last produced Johnnie Walker whisky more than 90 years ago is set to go back into production.

Under a £6 million project, the dilapidated 180-year-old building in Annan will be restored and equipped to distill a distinctive single malt.

It will also become a visitor centre and ‘whisky academy’ providing courses on all aspects of the creation of the perfect dram.

Behind the scheme is Dumfries-born businessman and whisky enthusiast David Thomson, an honorary professor of food and nutrition sciences at Reading University, and his wife Teresa Church, an animal nutritionist.

Professor Thomson, 55, said: “We bought the old distillery three years ago and the project is now set to go.

“We have been given a £350,000 grant from Historic Scotland who are keen to see the buildings restored.

“Unfortunately, a £150,000 grant awarded by the Scottish government has been withdrawn although I hope it may be reinstated.”

He said his main ambition was to create “an interesting and meaningful brand” of malt.

The distillery complex in Northfield, Annan, was built in 1830 by an excise man George Donald and taken over by Johnnie Walker in 1893.

By 1919 it was closed – a casualty of wartime Britain – and became part of the adjacent Distillery Farm.

The buildings have lain abandoned since 2001 and were bought in 2007 by the Thomsons who traced the original plans in Elgin Library.

The development, approved on Wednesday by Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Annandale area committee, includes a shop, cafe and learning centre.

The new distillery is being hailed as a boost to the local economy. It expected to employ 18 staff initially and is estimated to attract up to 25,000 visitors a year when fully operational.

Professor Thomson and whisky expert Jim Swan intend to run the whisky academy which will provide courses covering all aspects of production including the various processes, chemistry and blending. They will be tailored for both laymen and people with a scientific interest in the subject.

The Scottish Whisky Association has welcomed the project. A spokesman said that with only five distilleries in the lowland region the new distillery would be a “very welcome addition”.

Production could start within a year or so.

But according to the experts it will probably be 2020 before it will be possible to buy a bottle of smokey-flavoured Annandale Lowland Single Malt Scotch Whisky.


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