Shetland’s first whisky distillery set to open this year

Shetland’s first whisky distillery set to open this year

3D visualisation of Lerwick Distillery's tasting room

After more than a decade in the making, Shetland is gearing up to welcome its inaugural whisky distillery, Lerwick Distillery, slated for opening later this year.

Founded in 2022 by Martin WattCaroline MacIntyre and Calum Miller, whose backgrounds in chartered accountancy, hospitality & sales and architecture have laid the groundwork for this venture, the distillery was supported by specialist advice from Business Gateway.

Lerwick Distillery also has Ian Millar on board as a master distiller. Mr Millar has worked in the whisky industry for over 50 years and has worked with a number of major whisky brands, including almost 25 years at William Grant & Sons.

Shetland’s first whisky distillery set to open this year

The distillery's inaugural new make spirit

Scottish law dictates that a spirit cannot legally be called a whisky until it has matured for at least three years and one day, and the distillery plans to bottle a ‘new make’ spirit to cover operational costs for the first few years. This product will be called Haad Still – a traditional Shetland phrase for ‘hold on’, encouraging people to wait for the whisky to mature.

In time, the distillery will also offer tours to customers, with tourists being a particular target market.

Having secured the site in 2022, the team accessed business advice from Business Gateway after a recommendation from Shetland Islands Council, and met Business Gateway adviser, Diana Abernethy. She provided one-to-one support to the team in advance of distilling, helped raise their profile and signposted them to avenues to access vital funding.

The business accessed a start-up grant from Shetland Islands Council, which contributed to photography costs for use on social media. The social media and imagery directly helped raise share capital towards the opening of the distillery.

Shetland’s first whisky distillery set to open this year

3D visualisation of the distillery's shop

Mr Watt and Mr Miller’s initial funding target was to raise £1m, but they far exceeded this, and have been able to secure premises that are four times the original size they had planned.

Mr Watt, director of Lerwick Distillery, said: “The support that we received from Business Gateway has been excellent. Diana was able to point out things that we had missed in our business plan, and gave us access to great contacts to help us develop.

“If it hadn’t been for the funding Business Gateway signposted us to, we would not have raised enough share capital to be able to expand the business so quickly. The £4,000 funding resulted in an extra £682,000 share capital investment that really wasn’t expected. We truly couldn’t have done this without Business Gateway.”

Ms Abernethy added: “Shetland is the last area of the UK without a distillery, so to be able to help Martin, Caroline and Callum reach the goal of being the first distillery on the island has been fantastic.

“It’s an exciting brand and journey they’re embarking on and will give such a boost to tourism in the area and the local economy.”

Share icon
Share this article: