Whisky Galore: Ex-Uist community landlord chair behind new distillery plans for Benbecula

A vision of the plans

One of the leading architects of the community land buyout of South Uist is pressing ahead with plans to create a new whisky distillery in Benbecula.

Uist Distilling Company, owned by local businessmen Angus A MacMillan and his son Angus E MacMillan, has revealed plans to build a £6.5 million distillery at Gramsdale on Benbecula

The distillery company wants to produce high-quality spirits including single malt whisky, rum and gin, each with a unique Hebridean flavour.

The project for a distillery complex also includes a visitor centre with a food outlet, championing freshly made local products.

The building at Gramsdale

A planning application will be submitted this week to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, with production hoping to start in early 2022

Angus MacMillan had previously fronted up an attempt to get a community distillery established in Lochboisdale, but the project was shelved after his opponents feared the resources weren’t there to sustain it.

Mr MacMillan’s long involvement with Storas Uibhist came to an end when he resigned as director earlier this year.

The new plans for the distillery complex include pioneering and innovate low carbon technologies in the design, build and distillation process.

The building design will incorporate large glazed areas on either side of the building, showcasing the copper whisky stills and visitor centre.

Angus A McMillan, chairman and chief executive, says the distillery and visitor centre will bring 25 secure, high-quality jobs to the island, along with around 60-70 indirect jobs for suppliers, farmers, crofters transport and other local and national businesses.

He said: “The new distillery aims to be a champion of all things Hebridean and Scottish and will provide a huge boost to tourism in the area. We want to produce whisky, rum and gin that will put Benbecula and the Hebrides firmly on the whisky tourist trail, while introducing the products we make to a national and international clientele.”

He added: “I want to build strong relationships with other island distilleries so that we support the economic prospects of Scotland and our wider international industry.”

Operations Director, Angus E MacMillan said: “Having a low carbon footprint is key to The Uist Distilling Company’s plans.  We are working with industry experts to design a spirit production process which is powered by renewable energy sources, this will lower the carbon output of the distillery and ensure we are at the forefront of the whisky industry’s move away from the use of fossil fuels.”

He added that “Highlands and Islands Enterprise had already demonstrated its support by part-funding a feasibility study, while Western Isles Council is also supportive of the project.”

Community engagement drop-in sessions are planned in the coming weeks, where islanders will have the opportunity to see the plans in more detail and ask questions about the project.

HIE area manager for the Outer Hebrides Rachel Mackenzie, said: “These innovative plans will bring much-needed high-quality and secure jobs, as well as providing a visitor attraction that will be a significant boost to the Outer Hebrides tourism experience.”

Details about the new Benbecula plans were confirmed in a press release today issued by Morrison Media, the PR company which also previously acted for Storas Uibhist during Mr MacMillan’s time as board chair.