Plan could see malt whisky return to Edinburgh

An artist's impression of how the brewery would look at the new Forth crossing. Picture: comp
An artist's impression of how the brewery would look at the new Forth crossing. Picture: comp
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Edinburgh is set to produce its own malt whisky for the first time in a century, it emerged today.

Proposals for a new brewery in South Queensferry include plans to turn part of the site into a whisky distillery – the first since the city’s last producer – based in Sciennes – shut down in 1925.

Forth Bridge Brewery, which will be nestled directly under the new Queensferry Crossing, is the brainchild of Dave Robertson, a former member of the British sailing team who hopes to raise just under £3 million to bring his scheme to life.

And the 36-year-old insists Forth Bridge Whisky bottles will be hitting the shelves in just a few years – with half a million pounds in backing already pledged by investors.

The new brewery will turn out 110,000 litres of craft beer, whisky, vodka and gin every week, with two of its six stills devoted to creating a tipple with a “secret twist”.

Using top-secret production methods, Dave hopes to speed up the ageing process of the spirit, allowing it to mature faster – a move he admits will prove controversial with purists. And as well as whisky, the site – set to be the UK’s first fully sustainable brewery and distillery – will use 44 fermentation tanks to boost its craft beer production.

A restaurant and bar on the upper floor will feature glass-panelled flooring, allowing customers to watch the distillation and brewing process.

If planning permission is granted and funding secured, Dave insists his vision will attract 20,000 annual visitors to South Queensferry in its first few years.

He said: “I wanted to be able to combine various aspects into one job – marketing, brewing, hospitality. I wanted to create something unique, an icon for Scottish business.

“At the end of the day, this business is going to be unique from the word go. We have had a couple of setbacks, but they are all behind us now. As one of my business advisers said to me, go big or go home. The first six months will be quite tight on us, but we’ll go with the flow.”

South Queensferry does have a whisky history, having been formerly home to Vat 69 blended whisky.

Arthur Motley, a buyer 
for Royal Mile Whiskies, insisted a new Capital distiller could be a big draw for tourists and locals.

He said: “It’s definitely a common question from tourists looking for an Edinburgh malt, and local customers have really supported Edinburgh Gin and local brewers – so it’s not just tourists.”

Manuela Calchini, VisitScotland’s regional director for Edinburgh and the Lothians, said: “The investment plan for the Forth Bridge Distillery in 2016 represents a major development, not only for the region but for Scotland’s whisky industry – one of our biggest tourism-related icons.”