High rise: the Port of Leith Distillery is a one-of-a-kind
Edinburgh’s latest visitor attraction puts a new meaning into raising a glass, writes TERRY MURDEN
Wine merchant Ian Stirling and his long-time friend Paddy Fletcher were enjoying a dram in Milroy’s whisky bar, London when they came up with the idea of building their own distillery. Little did they know that it would turn out to be just a little different to scores of others dotted around Scotland. More than a decade on and they have finally celebrated its completion as an innovative addition to the Edinburgh skyline.
Tucked away on a waterside plot, the £12 million Port of Leith Distillery goes up…and up. Nine-storeys in fact. It is not only eye-catching, it is also something of a rarity.
There is one other known vertical distillery – in Sweden – which proves the system works, but not with a bar and tasting room on top. This one includes a top floor mezzanine bar, a one-of-a-kind space boasting panoramic 360 degree views over the city, a floor-to-ceiling back whisky bar and a menu of small plates designed to showcase Scotland’s world class ingredients.
Mr Stirling said: “We never set out to build a vertical distillery – the shape and size of the building is a product of the tiny site we were able to secure. We wedged our distillery tower into Edinburgh’s historic harbour to make our building as accessible as possible to people who, like us, love whisky.”
The founders’ ambition is for the distillery to attract 25,000 visitors in its first year, increasing to 160,000 by 2025. It has the benefit of being a neighbour to the Royal Yacht Britannia which is one of the most popular attractions in Scotland.
Paddy Fletcher and Ian Stirling at the distillery’s launch party (pic: Terry Murden)
Mr Fletcher said: “Coming from Edinburgh, we were always confused as to why there were no single malt distilleries operating in the city.
“Being able to build something modern and different has been an enormous treat; hopefully it will encourage people to take a second look at Scotch whisky as there’s huge amounts of innovation and excitement going on within the industry.”
The distillery is creating up to 50 long term local jobs, with the capacity to produce one million bottles of whisky per year.
Port of Leith Distillery opens to the public on 11 October.
The story of how two entrepreneurs fulfilled their dream: