Whisky Advocate brings you breaking news of the latest Scotch whisky distillery project…
Plans have been unveiled to build Burnbrae distillery in the former Rolls Royce factory in East Kilbride, just south of Glasgow. The new Lowland distillery has been commissioned by Campbell Meyer & Co. Ltd, a company of whisky blenders, bottlers, brokers, and exporters. Their intentions are to construct a new facility capable of producing up to two million liters of alcohol per annum by October 2017.
The head of Campbell Meyer & Co. is Colin Barclay, the nephew of Loch Lomond distillery developer Sandy Bulloch. Barclay has more than 25 years experience in the whisky industry. The company now has numerous warehouses and a filling store on the old Rolls Royce factory site. Many drinkers will know Campbell Meyer & Co. through their Hart Brothers single malt bottlings and their numerous blended scotch labels.
While I was writing about new Scotch whisky distilleries for the Spring 2016 issue of Whisky Advocate, and given the pace of change, I cheerfully predicted that the news would be out of date by the summer. Within days of publication, Harry Riffkin got in touch to let me know that he could tell me about an exciting new development. Riffkin runs Tatlock & Thomson, a long-established, specialist company that performs scientific analysis on alcoholic beverages. Intrigued, I drove deep into the Kingdom of Fife to the Tatlock & Thomson laboratories to listen to what he had to say.
Riffkin has developed the concept and design for Burnbrae after Barclay conceived the original idea for a distillery in East Kilbride. With a large blending business in existence, Barclay had designs on the production of whisky that could potentially be used for blending after three years and a day in cask. However, Riffkin invited him to the model Spirit of Hven distillery in Sweden, one of his first distillery designs, to persuade him of the merits of producing a high quality single malt whisky at Burnbrae as well.
The Burnbrae stills are ordered and plans are at an advanced stage. “We’re going to put in a proper lauter tun with a shallow bed, not a converted infusion tun with lauter rakes,” says Riffkin, unrolling the engineering plans across the table for my inspection. Production of Burnbrae will begin with 100 percent unpeated malt. “Lautering means to clarify, and we’ll control the mashing to give a high intensity spirit so we can produce crystal clear worts.” The fermenters will be insulated and temperature-controlled, with a long 72 to 96 hour fermentation time. “I cannot understand why anybody building a distillery today doesn’t control the temperatures, because they are messing about with the setting temperatures. We’re double backing, so each fermenter will take two mashes. We’ve got the right number of fermenters to give us the right fermentation time, that is, to give us the primary yeast fermentation followed by the lactic acid fermentation which will give us the quality of distillate.”
Distillation ratios will be two wash distillations to one spirit distillation, which naturally means the spirit still has to be larger. To compensate for a potential reduction in copper contact, Riffkin designed the size and shape of the two stills a little differently. The wash still is plain-shaped with a descending lyne arm (think Cragganmore or Highland Park). The spirit still has a little boil ball, a narrower neck and shoulders similar to Glenrothes, and an ascending lyne arm producing a good reflux ratio. Both stills will be heated with straight double-layered racetrack coils for control (just like the inside of a kettle).
The stillman will control the temperature of the shell-and-tube condensers to ensure that the vapors condense in the first third, especially from the wash still. Two boreholes are planned, following the discovery that 45,000 liters per hour of underground water at a cool 50oF flow deep beneath the factory. For Riffkin, this is all about getting it right at the beginning, with a site that will be known for its controllable process and hands-on distillation, “The men will be running about doing it; automation will be minimized, we’re not going to build an air conditioned control room with touchscreens. These boys will be doing it traditionally.”
Riffkin promises that Burnbrae will only use the very best of equipment. “We are not going to use any oddball manufacturers,” he insists. “If someone walks into your distillery in East Kilbride, they want to see McMillan stills, they want to see Steinecker mash tuns, and they want to see that everything is perfect. Forget about these oddball manufacturers piggybacking on to this boom, we’re not going to use any of them.”
Rarely do we get access to such a fine level of detail at this stage of a distillery project, especially ahead of the appointment of the distillery manager. In contrast to other new builds, Riffkin assures me that as an established whisky company like Campbell Meyer & Co., there are no issues with finance for Burnbrae distillery: no public money is being asked for and no subscribers’ money will be sought. Coast to coast, the Lowlands of Scotland are a hotbed of new distillery projects at present, and with high hopes for producing the Rolls Royce of single malts, ground should be broken on Burnbrae distillery this fall.