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Historic first casks filled at new inverness Distillery

Uile-bheist Head Distiller Drew Shearer (left) and co-owner Jon Erasmus celebrate the Distillery's first filled casks

UILE-BHEIST Distillery has filled its maiden casks, with the new make spirit set to become the first single malt whisky to be distilled in Inverness for 40 years.

Head Distiller Andrew ‘Drew’ Shearer performed the historic first cask filling, with the distilled spirit now being laid down for maturation in ex-sherry and ex-bourbon oak casks for a minimum of three years before officially becoming Scotch Whisky.

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In a milestone week, Uile-bheist also filled the first batch of 500 (500ml) bottles of the new make spirit which has an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 63.5%.

The new make will go on sale to visitors to the new £7.5m distillery, brewery and visitor attraction which is situated on the banks of the River Ness; powered by water from the famous river.

Inverness was formerly host to several large distilleries but the last of those, Millburn, closed its doors in 1985. With its closure went the last drops of the ‘water of life’ to flow from the city.

Now the public can finally get an insight into what the signature Uile-bheist Single Malt will be like when fully aged, with casks also being made available to purchase for collectors of rarities.

Around 60 casks of the historic product are available, ranging in price from £6000 for a 200L ex-bourbon cask to £7500 for a 250L ex-sherry Hogshead of Uile-bheist single malt. 

While the international investors and collectors market remains buoyant, interestingly, most buyers so far have come from Inverness and the highlands.

Co-Owner Jon Erasmus feels this reflects a sense of community ownership in the project and an eagerness to be part of the story of how distilling has returned to the highland capital.

“This week marks the end of the beginning for us: the casking and bottling of our first product. We’ve been through the process. Now we want to build on our production and capacity.

“Ultimately, we are a family business supporting this concept for the very long term. This is a small, niche whisky in the highlands with lots of provenance. It is very limited edition. If you buy it, you will literally be one of dozens, not thousands.”

The Uile-bheist story contains unique elements which the team believe will be mirrored in the product.

Water for energy and production is sourced through shallow water wells from the River Ness, making the on-site process low carbon and energy efficient.

Water is treated by UV light and technology from innovative German coppersmiths, Kaspar Schulz, enables the recovery of heat throughout distillation.

Malted barley is sourced from Bairds Malt, less than 2 miles away, curbing transport emissions.

Additionally, the yeast used is brewers’ yeast rather than distillers’ yeast, reflecting that 

Uile-bheist is a brewery and distillery.

“Because we are using a brewers’ yeast, our own water supply, a very long fermentation time (minimum 4 days, often much longer) and have a lot of temperature control in our fermentations, we are getting a much higher ester content in our whisky, a lot more fruity notes and a much more unique product,” said Head Distiller, Drew Shearer.

“Through fermentation, we get a very fruity distillate. We are then distilling it twice using very traditional style copper pot stills but using brand new technology to monitor the process precisely. 

“It’s a very light spirit, very fruit forward and a bit nutty in the background. It’s a bit more on the Speyside side, rather than being typical of a highland malt.”

Uile-bheist intends to release a ‘very bespoke’ bottling of its Single Highland malt at 3 years old whilst laying down the remainder for ‘the long haul’. 

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