£10.5m Bunnahabhain Distillery transformation begins

A three-year refurbishment programme has begun at Bunnahabhain Distillery on Islay as its owner Distell International invests £10.5m in an extensive upgrade and refresh of the distillery. 

As part of the upgrade, a number of the original buildings will be carefully restored to their former glory giving them a new lease of life, whilst others will be removed and relocated to create more space, allowing for better operational flow across the site and to enhance the experience for visitors to the distillery.  

A key focal point for the development programme is the creation of a new ‘brand home’ and visitor centre. This will also feature a café and retail space and will be positioned along the shoreline with stunning views overlooking Bunnahabhain Bay and the Sound of Islay.

This is one of the first new buildings to be progressed and the plan is for the brand home to be ready to welcome visitors for the start of the 2020 season.  

Some of the existing warehouses are in the process of being removed from their current shoreline positioning to enable the visitor centre to be located there. Work has already commenced with the demolition of four warehouse buildings, as well as the start of upgrades to the existing pumphouse.

So far, over 99% of the materials processed during the demolition have been recycled with the majority retained for re-use at the distillery. This recycling rate is in line with the ambition to reduce the potential impact of the works. Other areas being improved include the build of a new filling store, refurbishment of the production building and also the series of six cottages alongside the distillery, which will eventually be used for holiday accommodation. The development schedule and phasing of activity have been carefully designed to ensure minimal disruption to whisky production and to the visitor experience during this timeframe. 

Derek Scott, Brand Director for Malts at Distell International, said, “Our investment programme, here at Bunnahabhain, is about improving the operational side of our distillery for the long term future. We are restoring our buildings to their former glory and providing a visitor experience where we don’t just welcome visitors, after the long winding journey to get here, wehelp them enjoy a piece of Bunnahabhain life. 

“The plans aim to make the navigation of the site much easier for the visitor and to, in simple terms, declutter it. This will ensure the buildings are more efficient from a storage point of view and located in better suited, more accessible locations to the production buildings. Furthermore, we are committed to reducing the environmental impact of the works. The whisky industry is starting to be more environmentally aware and our achievement of recycling over 99% of materials shows, with a little bit of extra effort, it is remarkable what we can achieve. “

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