Ian Stirling: How to build a distillery in Edinburgh part 2 – Capacity

Fascinated that someone was writing a diary blog about their proposed £5m new Edinburgh distillery project, we asked Ian Stirling of Port of Leith Distillery if we could republish his blog here.

Ian said “yes”, so here is part 2.
One of the first questions we get asked about our project is what volume of whisky we’re planning to produce in Leith.

When you read about distillery capacities, the figures generally refer to lpa (litres of pure alcohol) produced in a year. To give you some idea of the potential range, Kilchoman, a relatively new distillery on Islay, produces around 110,000 lpa per year. Glenfiddich, a long established global brand, produces 10,000,000 lpa per year.

Er… we're going to be closer to the Kilchoman end of the range.

If you read Part 1 of this series, you will have seen how for us, this was a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. Ultimately, we knew we needed to produce a certain volume of whisky to make our business plan work. With the timescales involved in scotch whisky production, it’s hard to create a viable business plan without thinking in terms of hundreds of thousands of lpa.

With each site that we looked at, we had to consider a number of factors.

The obvious one is space. You need a lot of kit to make whisky on a commercial scale and we knew roughly how many square feet this would require. Having said that, there are ways to work within a tight site.

Access is critical. There will be a lot of raw materials going into the distillery, and a fair amount of waste coming out. That means regular lorry movements and storage for grain.

Utilities are obviously essential, but it’s impossible to know what access you will have to gas, water and electricity until you’ve done some surveys and written a few emails. Of course, most rural distilleries have a plentiful local source of water. As an Edinburgh distillery, we had to ensure there were some pipes with the proper capacity nearby.

Those are the site considerations, but there’s one more factor that can dramatically affect your production volumes: operating hours.

A distillery working 260 days a year on an 8 hour shift might produce 100,000 lpa. Add another shift, and you’ve doubled your capacity. You could even work 24hrs a day to triple your whisky. Work a 7 day week and you’ve increased your volume even more.

So, how much will we produce? I’ll tell you another day.

Read part 1 here.