Inverness celebrates the arrival of its first whisky distillery in more than a hundred years
Inverness distillery opens, reviving lost whisky heritage.
After 130 years, Inverness is home to a distillery again, causing quite a stir. The Uile-bheist distillery and brewery is now open to the public on the banks of the River Ness, and it’s already making waves with its low carbon Sustainability centre. With 100 tour visits expected each day during peak season, the £7.5m complex is set to become a significant attraction for whisky lovers and tourists alike. Plans also include creating a distilling ‘campus’ with increased capacity, a bonded warehouse with shopping, and an even more luxurious tap room, tasting and visitor spaces. It’s an exciting time for Inverness as the city reconnects with its proud whisky and brewing history.
In the glory days of Scotland’s whisky industry, Inverness was an important player, hosting iconic distilleries such as Glen Mhor, Glen Albyn, and Millburn distilleries, whose rare/expensive bottles are seen from time to time. Unfortunately, the industry saw a downturn in the ‘whisky loch’ era of the 80s, with global production surpassing demand, leading to the closure of many distilleries across the highlands, including Inverness.
Today, the winds of change have blown in a new era for the city as the Uile-bheist distillery and brewery opens its doors, breathing new life into Inverness’s long-lost whisky and brewing legacy. Meaning ‘monster’ in Gaelic, Uile-bheist is the first distillery to open in the city since 1892, with the first coveted casks being filled soon.
On the beer side – Uile-bheist’s craft ales are also set to cause an impact, with the first batch of five signature beers to be served in early April 2023. These will be the first beers brewed in Inverness in 34 years, marking a new chapter for the city’s brewing heritage.
Co-founder Jon Erasmus believes crafting is not about quantity but creating something exceptional. Their commitment to using clean energy and innovative methods, such as shallow water wells, has been praised as exemplary. Interestingly, this is not Erasmus’ first attempt to establish a brewery on the Ness bank site, as his previous application was rejected in 2014. Nevertheless, with persistence and determination, he has brought his vision to life and is ready to share his passion for craft with the world.
Their passion is not only limited to creating premium drinks but also doing it in style. So, they aimed for a high design specification level in every aspect of the distillery. From the stunning stills to the cosy dramming area to the modern taproom. So whether you visit from New York or Tokyo, they want you to be wowed by an impressive photogenic set-up.
Is Uile-bheist committed to sustainability?
Uile-bheist is committed to sustainability, focusing on climate action and Scotland’s NetZero aspirations. The Glen Mhor Hotel has signed the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism. Uile-bheist’s on-site Sustainability Centre and distillery project was supported by the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Scheme, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and the Energy Saving Trust. By prioritizing sustainability, Uile-bheist is creating high-quality products and doing its part to preserve the environment for future generations.
Moreover, the team is using the River Ness to power a groundbreaking district heating system that’s so impressive local authorities are taking notice. With the help of shallow water wells and heat pumps, they can keep their energy usage low and their carbon footprint even lower. On top of that, they’re also using fluorescent light to treat their water, and the rooftop solar panels provide even more clean electricity.
Interestingly, they are taking a unique approach that allows them to maximize the use of the equipment in the early stages of production while still giving their craft beer and whisky distinctive flavours and characteristics. According to Master Brewer, Bruce Smith, who has previously worked for Innis and Gunn, there are some subtle differences in the recipe and process. Still, the final products diverge significantly. This will be his first foray into whisky, and he’s excited to apply his diverse experience to create something exceptional.
So, get ready to experience a unique, experimental take on whisky-making at Uile-bheist. The distillery won’t be attached to the traditional methods of the 1800s. On the contrary, exploration and experimentation will be at their hearts. The first whisky release will come when they consider it represents their brand and values. We only hope they don’t let us wait too long; fingers crossed!
Is the Uile-bheist distillery open for tours?
Tourism has been a driving force in the whisky industry, and Uile-bheist is ready to welcome visitors from near and far. With limited ‘Discovery’ tours starting in March 2023 and a complete hourly tour programme beginning in April, the distillery and brewery are poised to attract a new wave of whisky enthusiasts.
Visitors can also dine and stay on-site, with partnerships including the nearby Glen Mhor Hotel and Waterside Restaurant owned by Uile-bheist founders Jon and Victoria Erasmus. These partnerships create a unique opportunity for visitors to fully immerse themselves in the Uile-bheist experience, enjoying the taste of craft beer and whisky, delicious food and comfortable accommodations.
From the bustling streets of Edinburgh to the scenic River Ness in Inverness, the whisky industry is booming with a renewed focus on quality and visitor experience. Uile-bheist is no exception, with its state-of-the-art distillery and brewery set to produce 200-300 casks of Highland Single Malt per year and a whopping 350,000 litres of craft beer in a beautifully designed distillery/brewery that is also committed to sustainability.
Can I grab a pint of beer at Uile-bheist?
Absolutely! With five signature brews on offer – lager, pale ale, IPA, white IPA, and stout – there’s something for every taste bud. And the best part? The taproom is on-site, so visitors can sip on a freshly brewed beer while admiring the stunning copper piping and illustrations by renowned artist Ken Taylor. Additionally, thanks to a clever piping system, the beer is pumped straight from the production floor to the taproom bar, ensuring the freshest possible taste. So don’t miss out on this unique craft beer experience – the first brews will be available for tasting and purchase by early April 2023.
Bruce Smith, Master Brewer, aims to infuse the craft brewing principles that made Scottish small-batch beers world-famous into the art of distilling. The strict rules of whisky making do not bind him, which makes Uile-bheist’s products unique. With the balance between the quick-to-market craft beers and the slowly maturing whisky, Bruce’s job is dynamic and exciting.
Where can I book a tour at Uile-bheist distillery?
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience the exciting world of Uile-bheist! Whether you are interested in their distillery, brewery, or restaurant, head to their website at www.uilebheist.com for all the details on booking and tours. They offer a wide range of activities listed as follows:
- Discovery Tour £30pp
- Boilermaker and tasting £50pp
- Chocolate & cheese £80pp
- Blending experience £100pp
- Master maker’s tour £150pp
- Whisky/beer flights £POA
With activities running several days a week, planning your visit and securing your spot is best. Don’t risk missing out on the chance to see firsthand the passion and expertise that goes into the new Invernessian distillery. Book your visit today!