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Triple appointment as Inverness Distillery targets growth

18/05/2023
New Head Brewer Andrew Hodgson (left) with fellow newcomers, General Manager Donnie Christian (centre) and Head Distiller Andrew Shearer (right) settle in at Uile-bheist Distillery and Brewery. (Credit: Heartland Media and PR)

ONE of Scotland’s newest whisky distilleries has appointed a new General Manager, Head Distiller and Head Brewer as its products hit the market for the first time. 

In February, the £7.5m Uile-bheist Distillery and Brewery became the first distillery to open in Inverness in 130 years, powered by a unique sustainable energy system using water from the River Ness.

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Now, with commissioning complete, its first 2 beers selling and its maiden single malt to be casked shortly, it has made a triple senior appointment to help oversee the next phase of growth.

New General Manager, highlander Donnie Christian, has 30 years of experience as an award winning retail and Visitor Experience manager in Ireland and Scotland.

He returned to the highlands following the pandemic after helping transform the retail operation at Dublin City University, including developing an award-winning franchise of convenience store brand, Londis.

His immediate priorities will be to maximise the retail potential of the Uile-bheist products and cement the  ‘brew-stillery’ as an Inverness and highland tourist attraction.

New Head Distiller Andrew Shearer has a Masters in Distilling and Brewing and worked as a whisky quality analyst for Glen Turner before becoming Head Distiller at Kinrara in the Cairngorms National Park.

He is overseeing the production of Uile-bheist’s eagerly awaited first single malt whilst Andrew Hodgson is spearheading the brewing side following 7 years of experience with Black Isle Brewery and Tempest Brewing Co. in the Borders.

The company’s first small-batch craft beers, ‘Inverness Lager’ and ‘Forest Dweller’ IPA are now on the market and are selling in the on-site tap room and local hotels.

Production of its first ‘Dark Horse’ highland stout is underway and tours of the facility, with its on-site Sustainability Centre, are set to peak in the summer tourist season.

“What we have here is pretty unique. We want to maximise its potential, but do that in a way which is sustainable. This informs all of our processes,” said new GM, Donnie Christian.

“We’ve got a fantastic new team, with our 2 Andrews, who are adapting the distilling and brewing process around our sophisticated Kaspar Schulz technology, from Germany.

“Ultimately, we want products we are proud of and production is developing nicely. We also want to help make Inverness – one of the fastest growing UK cities- a base which visitors want to stay in and enjoy.”

With the first Uile-bheist whisky casks soon to be filled, and casks available for investors to purchase from £6000, new Head Distiller Andrew Shearer is excited at the prospect of the maiden Uile-bheist offering.

“Because we are using brewer’s yeast instead of traditional distiller’s yeast, we are getting a lot of character. We are leaving a lot more flavour in, perhaps at the cost of yield, but we are all about quality and that uniqueness of character.”

Uile-bheist’s new 2-man production team will work flexibly across the distilling/brewing process.

“Coming here was an opportunity to work on what I feel is the most sophisticated brewhouse in Scotland of this size, especially in terms of the wider aspects such as the aesthetic of the place and what it is trying to achieve in terms of sustainability,” said new Head Brewer, Andrew Hodgson.

“The rewards so far have been great, in terms of the product. It is a very exciting time.” 

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