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Chivas on Islay

Scotch whisky business Chivas Brothers is set to build its first distillery on the isle of Islay after taking over the long-delayed Gartbreck project on the famed whisky island.

Chivas – the Scotch whisky arm of drinks giant Pernod Ricard – said today that the new plant would ‘round out its offering of globally recognised malts and blends, which include The Glenlivet, Royal Salute, Chivas Regal and Ballantine’s’.

The distillery, which will focus on making a classically Islay style of smoky, peated single malt, will be located at Gartbreck Farm, west of Bowmore at Saltpan Point on the shore of Loch Indaal, with ‘stunning views’ across the loch to Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte.

Chivas said the design of the new facility will be ‘carbon-neutral in distillation from inception’, in line with the company’s goal to be carbon-neutral across all of its distilleries by 2026.

‘This is an important new chapter in the Chivas Brothers story,’ said Jean-Etienne Gourgues, company chairman and CEO. ‘The introduction of an Islay whisky completes our comprehensive and award-winning Scotch portfolio.

‘As a business built on hundreds of years of heritage, it also gives us the opportunity to do something we rarely do, which is to start from scratch.

‘Here on Islay, we can create a blueprint for carbon neutral distilling and continue to usher in this era of sustainable Scotch. We are committed to Scotch, to the Islay community and the landscape that makes it the perfect place to continue our vision to shape the future of whisky.’

Planning permission for a distillery at Gartbreck Farm was originally granted in 2014 to Jean Donnay, the owner of Glann ar Mor distillery in Brittany – but the site has had a chequered history since then.

Independent bottler Hunter Laing – which has since opened its own Islay distillery at Ardnahoe – agreed to buy Gartbreck in 2015, but Donnay pulled out of the deal.

The two then became embroiled in a dispute over a strip of land owned by Hunter Laing that was earmarked for distillery warehousing and car parking – a row which threatened to scupper the project altogether.

The distillery at Gartbreck is likely to become the 13th on the Hebridean island when it opens. Islay is currently home to nine whisky distilleries: Ardbeg, Ardnahoe, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Kilchoman, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. Another, Elixir Distillers-owned Portintruan, on the outskirts of Port Ellen, is scheduled to begin production in 2024. Meanwhile, distillation is set to be revived at a rebuilt Port Ellen distillery shortly, and planning permission has been granted for a distillery at Laggan Bay, to be developed by whisky bottlers and brewers The Islay Boys, in association with Ian Macleod Distillers.

News of the development of another whisky distillery on Islay is likely to concern some islanders, who worry that Islay’s infrastructure will struggle to cope. Concerns have been expressed in recent years about the island’s ferry service and the state of its roads, as well as over the availability of housing and finding sufficient skilled employees to staff the distilleries.

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