THE construction of what will become the most northern distillery on the UK mainland is under way on the outskirts of Thurso.
Wolfburn Distillery is expected to be in operation by the start of next year, with its first bottles of whisky likely to be on the market by 2016.
The private consortium behind the project was granted planning permission to build the distillery in June, with the first phase of construction beginning in August.
The first steel construction of the buildings took place last week and is expected to be completed by November.
Responsibility will then be handed over to distillery construction specialists Forsyths of Rothes which will install the distilling equipment in a phase that will take between six and eight weeks.
After the work is completed, the commissioning stage will take place during the first week of January when Wolfburn will start producing its first barrels of whisky.
Business development manager Stephen Light said it has received a lot of support from the whisky industry and local business in getting the distillery up and running.
“We are ahead of schedule in terms of the actual construction of the distillery,” he said. “The steel erection commenced last week, which means we have gone from owning a patch of land to things that look like buildings.
“When we open next year, we will start off with three members of staff, as when making whisky it has to sit in a cask for three years before it can be sold so we won’t be making any sales until 2016.
“Once the whisky is on the market, we will be looking at taking on more staff.”
The distillery is being built 350 metres from the original Wolfburn distillery, which closed in 1877 and the ruins can still be seen today.
Although little remains of the original building, parts of it will be incorporated into the development.
The distillery will draw its water from the Wolf Burn, as did the original building which was constructed in 1821.
It was owned by William Smith and was passed down through subsequent generations of the Smith family in the 19th century.
Mr Light said the whisky industry has fared well during the recession and he hopes Wolfburn can capitalise on emerging markets abroad.
He commented: “It’s been a hugely positive experience so far and everyone is excited to see the business get up and running.
“The whisky industry has also shown a huge amount of interest in what we are doing in Thurso and we have received a lot of contact from various people asking us about our plans.”
Wolfburn has been in close contact with management at Pulteney Distillery in Wick, who are helping to get the business running.
The two distilleries will be working together in Wolfburn’s first few years in various areas of business.
It has also been announced that Wolfburn Distillery will be mentioned in the 2013 Malt Whisky Yearbook.