A three year refurbishment programme has begun at Bunnahabhain Distillery on Islay, as its owners, spirits and wine producer, Distell International invests £10.5m in an extensive upgrade and refresh of the iconic distillery.
Located in the most northerly point of the island, Bunnahabhain has experienced many changes over the years. 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.
Bunnahabhain embodies the character of the island, its non-peated flavour exposes the coastal location of the warehouses and the affect the salty spray of the sea has on the whisky. All of the single malt whisky in the Bunnahabhain brand will continue to be matured at the distillery, only metres from the shoreline.
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, we help 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.
“Bunnahabhain has a special place in Islay’s whisky heritage and we are committed to retaining this by turning Bunnahabhain Bay into a world-class whisky destination of choice. As the most remote and northerly distillery on the island, our transformation will give those who have made the journey time to pause, forget about the rest of the world and enjoy the serene surroundings.”
An artist’s impression of the distillery after the upgrade work is completed can be seen below.