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Clynelish Distillery to shut down for ten months

By SPP Reporter

Clynelish will shut for maintenance and upgrading.
Clynelish will shut for maintenance and upgrading.

SUTHERLAND’s only distillery is to close for the major part of next year, its operators have confirmed.

Drinks giant Diageo has said Clynelish Distillery will shut down for 10 months in 2016 for extensive maintenance and upgrading work.

The costly works will not increase output but are expected to safeguard the future of the 196-year-old distillery,

Reassurances have been given that the distillery’s 14-strong workforce will still be employed during the closure period. The visitor centre and shop, which attract hundreds of tourists each season, will remain open.

Plans for a £30 million expansion which would double the capacity of the distillery were unveiled early last year but are understood to have been put on the back boiler for the time being.

Located in rolling farmland at the north end of Brora, Clynelish was established in 1819 by the Marquis of Stafford on an adjacent site to the present distillery which was built in the 1960s.

Clynelish currently produces around 4.5 million litres of alcohol per year. Its single malt is described on its website as having a “uniquely waxy character with sweetness to taste, brown sugar and a hint of floral notes on the nose.”

Diageo’s head of corporate relations Ian Smith said work to be carried out involved the upgrade of existing equipment including replacing the mashtun (the vessel used to soak the sugars out of the malted barley) and a number of the washbacks (large wooden vessels in which the fermentation process takes place).

Mr Smith said: “These are major parts of the distillery process and it is a significant process to replace them.”

The operating systems – the control and monitoring systems used in the distillation process, will also be updated.”

The distillery is expected to shut down from spring next year.

Mr Smith said: “The refurbishment will bring contractor jobs to the area for the duration of the work, bringing benefit to the local economy.”

Despite work taking place, Clynelish will still be open to visitors.

Mr Smith said: “Part of the existing tour takes in the buildings of the old Brora Distillery, so there’s still stuff for visitors to see and do, even though the main part of the Clynelish Distillery will be closed for the refurbishment work.”

He acknowledged that Diageo has announced last year that it would be expanding its Clynelish site.

But he said: “We applied for planning consent for an expansion and that is still the long term plan but we are not at that stage yet and are not installing any new stills at this stage.

“The distillery will close next year purely for an upgrade and maintenance programme. A lot of the equipment has been there since the 1960s.”

Clynelish distillery manager Sean Priestley said: “Clynelish is a very important malt whisky distillery for Diageo and that is reflected in the investment we’re making here.

“Much of the equipment in the distillery has been in place since the distillery was built in the late 1960s and we’re delighted to have this opportunity to maintain and up-grade our operations for the future.

“We’re pleased to be able to keep the visitor centre and shop at the distillery open throughout the up-grade period so we can continue to play our part in attracting and welcoming tourists to the area.”

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