Seven-figure deal agreed to construct whisky distillery
The Cabrach Distillery has agreed a seven-figure deal with fellow Moray firm, the Rothes coppersmith Forsyths, to complete the construction of Scotland’s newest Single Malt Scotch Whisky distillery which will operate as a one-of-a-kind social enterprise.
In an industry first, The Cabrach Trust, the charity that has established The Cabrach Distillery as a Community Interest Company, has agreed to a project delivery partnership with Forsyths, a fourth generation family business that designs and manufactures distilleries across the world. Forsyths will be undertaking all major aspects of construction, alongside the full manufacture, fit-out, and commissioning of the distillery, dunnage warehouse, and peat shed.
Forsyths have committed a philanthropic contribution of £500,000 towards the project, with principal construction and distillery works costing a total of £3 million. Richard Forsyth, chairman of Forsyths Ltd and Grant Gordon, founder and chairman of The Cabrach Trust agreed the deal at the former’s Rothes fabrication facility.
In recognition of their support, The Cabrach Trust will enshrine Forsyths as a founding partner alongside the Ethos Foundation and Bently Foundation who have both generously supported the project. Beyond building works and distillery fit-out, Forsyths has committed to a long-term, multifaceted relationship with the Trust, encompassing shared learning, cereal, and sustainable practices.
Richard Forsyth said: “To be able to put into practice, to positive effect, our decades of expertise in helping to build some of the world’s finest distilleries is a privilege, especially somewhere so unique and steeped in whisky folklore as the Cabrach.
“The fact The Cabrach Distillery is a Community Interest Company and will directly benefit the Moray community, our community, was a huge draw for Forsyths, which is why we wanted to support the project as much as possible. This sort of unique proposition doesn’t come round very often in life, and we’re delighted to be a part of it.”
Grant Gordon added: “With the build in full flow, we are so grateful for the support provided by Forsyths. We have absolute confidence in the experience and ability of Forsyths to create a distillery befitting of the Cabrach’s historic significance in whisky production, and it is a privilege to work with and alongside such an array of incredible peer, community, and funding partners.”
Jonathan Christie, chief executive of The Cabrach Trust, added: “The Cabrach Distillery is a project like no other and there is an incredible group of individuals and organisations pushing the project forward at pace. To be embarking on the most important part of the development with Forsyths by our side, as we drive towards first distillation, is beyond exciting. From my very first encounter with Richard Forsyth, his enthusiasm and counsel, alongside the knowledge and support of the Forsyths team, has been invaluable.”
The Cabrach is famed for its role in the birth of malt whisky and the completion of the distillery will bring single malt whisky production back to the community for the first time in over 170 years.
In late 2021, The Cabrach Trust announced it had secured multi-million-pound funding to commence work on The Cabrach Distillery; a project which will showcase the craft and alchemy of making Scotland’s national drink while telling the story of the historic area. Over recent months, enabling construction work has delivered access to the beautiful site at Inverharroch, allowing attention to turn to the Trust’s 19th century steading which will house the distillery and future heritage centre.
Once complete, The Cabrach Distillery will be unique in quality, purpose, and small scale. Producing 100,000 litres of spirit each year, with barley sourced from the fields adjacent to the distillery and from nearby farms, the project will maintain an overarching commitment to sustainability, incorporating an innovative energy and recycling circularity. Importantly, the distillery will operate as a social enterprise, with future revenues set to support the Trust’s community regeneration mission.
By the time spirit once again flows from Cabrach stills next year, over 170 years will have passed since legal distilling in the area came to an untimely end. In 1823, a significant change in legislation succeeded in encouraging three Cabrach families to establish legally-regulated distilleries on their farms – Blackmiddens, Lesmurdie, and Tomnaven. For more than 20 years, these distilleries flourished and real Cabrach whisky was held in the highest possible regard. However, various factors impacted on the economic viability of the three Cabrach distilleries, and one by one they closed.
The Cabrach, a remote, upland area in the North East of Scotland, was a once thriving community of over 1,000 residents and a legendary haunt of rebellious Jacobites, illicit distillers and smugglers. However, the devastation wrought by the Great Wars began a spiral of depopulation and decline. Today fewer than 100 people call the Cabrach home.
This project represents the cornerstone of the Trust’s transformational regeneration masterplan for the Cabrach, which will not only bring about much-needed permanent, skilled employment to the area, but attract thousands of visitors every year, placing the natural beauty and unparalleled history of the area centre stage.