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Go-ahead for micro-distillery at John O’Groats

By Ali Morrison

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Husband and wife team Derek and Kerry Campbell who are behind the plans to create the most northerly whisky distillery on the Scottish mainland.
Husband and wife team Derek and Kerry Campbell who are behind the plans to create the most northerly whisky distillery on the Scottish mainland.

The go-ahead has been given for a new micro-distillery for John O’Groats which will boost jobs in the area.

Work will start later this year on local couple Derek and Kerry Campbell's whisky distillery, visitor centre and bonded warehouse after planning permission was secured this week.

The new facility is set to open in 2021 – the first Scotch whisky distillery in John O’Groats since James Sutherland and John Gibson set one up in 1826, which operated until 1837.

The Campbells' venture, the most northerly whisky distillery on the Scottish mainland, will have the capacity to produce up to 60,000 litres each year.

Situated on a 32,670 sq ft site adjacent to the main car park, the distillery will also be a new visitor attraction and provide those travelling from Land’s End to John O’Groats with an opportunity to toast their journey with a dram of local whisky. It is estimated that six new jobs will be created during the first year, including a master whisky-maker and visitor centre manager.

The distillery and visitor centre will encompass one large building which has been designed to showcase the two copper stills and traditional whisky-making process while making the most of the views across the Pentland Firth through large glass windows placed along the front of the building.

A 1500 sq ft dunnage warehouse will also be built on the site to mature and store the Highland spirit.

Founder Mrs Campbell said: “With a long-standing interest in the whisky industry, I began to truly appreciate quality Scotch whisky around 12 years ago and since then have developed a growing passion for Scotland’s national drink.

A computer-generated image showing what the distillery will look like.
A computer-generated image showing what the distillery will look like.

"After many conversations with my husband around the idea of building our own distillery and creating our own whisky, I’m delighted that we are now one step closer to making these plans a reality having secured planning permission on our dream site at John O’Groats.

“We believe the whisky we will produce will be unlike that from any other distillery, due to our coastal location in John O’Groats and the impact the local climate will have on our spirit as it matures. With traditional methods at the heart of our plans and an ambition to showcase whisky distilling in John O’Groats to the world, we are looking forward to opening the doors to our micro-distillery in due course.

“The support we have received from the local community and business owners to date has been fantastic and we can’t wait to welcome them to our distillery in 2021.”

The business has been helped by £198,000 of funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

Keith Muir, HIE’s head of business growth for Caithness and Sutherland, said: “Tourism and food and drink are two key industries in Caithness, and this project features both.

"As well as producing a brand new whisky, it will enhance the area’s wider visitor offering, notably around the North Coast 500. All of this encourages visitors to stay in the area longer, which benefits all local businesses and communities.

“We particularly welcome the improvement it will make to the look and feel of the John O’Groats 'end of the road' attraction, in bringing a long-disused site back into productive use. We are very pleased to support this venture and look forward to seeing it taking shape.”

Andrew Mowat, manager at the Seaview Hotel in John O’Groats, said: “The development of the new distillery and visitor centre is really exciting for the area and is another great example of the ongoing development of John O'Groats.

“It will complement the plans for the mill and brewery in the area. It will also help increase dwell time in John O’Groats, attract more visitors, increase employment and utilise a currently undeveloped site.

“We are now getting closer to achieving our aim of making John O’Groats a world-class destination, with the community trusts and business community working hand in to realise this goal.”

Work on the distillery is due to begin in summer 2020, with the aim of opening the visitor centre to the public in summer 2021.

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