EDRINGTON has unveiled plans to invest more than £100 million in a new distillery and visitor centre for The Macallan in Speyside to keep pace with demand for its biggest-selling malt around the world.
The Glasgow-based spirits producer, which is owned by The Robertson Trust, has revealed the new distillery will have a "significantly" greater capacity than the 10 million litres the current one can produce. The old distillery, which dates from 1824, will ultimately be closed and preserved.
A new visitor centre will also be developed, allowing the brand to accommodate more tourists than its present attraction allows.
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The project is the latest in a series of multi-million pound investments made by distillers to meet rising demand for Scotch around the world.
The new Speyside distillery, which is slated to be up and running by early 2017, will produce spirit for The Macallan brand exclusively.
A spokesman said The Macallan is "performing extremely well" and showing no signs of a slowing in China, where some whiskies have suffered amid a politically led clampdown on public shows of extravagance. It is said to be the number one malt in China, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
The spokesman said: "Macallan is our number one within Edrington and it is performing extremely well, so it's really about the potential of Macallan. If you have been staying close to the way malt whisky has been performing, you will know it has been growing very strongly.
"Macallan is so sought after that we have been unable to properly meet demand in recent years. This will move us out of that situation."
Edrington has appointed architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, whose previous commissions include the Millennium Dome in London, to work on the project. It has been asked to devise a scheme for the distillery and visitor centre which reflects the brand's reputation for craftsmanship and innovation, as well as the surrounding landscape.
Edrington was due to hold a pre-application meeting with Moray Council yesterday ahead of launching a 12-week public consultation in January. It will submit a detailed planning application in April with a view to work starting next autumn.
Edrington noted its "strong belief" that jobs will be created by the project, but said it could not elaborate on numbers until the planning process was further advanced.
The investment comes after Edrington chief executive Ian Curle pledged this summer to ramp up distillation capacity to support the growth of its core brands, which also include Cutty Sark, The Famous Grouse and Highland Park.
Mr Curle said: "This is a confident investment in the future of The Macallan and its home on Speyside. Our plan for the estate includes a contemporary distillery that embodies the international style of The Macallan and builds on the brand's tradition of quality and craftsmanship.
"As this long-term investment develops it will bring significant employment and economic benefit to the local economy."
Edrington recently set up a distribution company in Singapore to serve eight countries in south-east Asia, and will launch a similar operation in the US in March, where The Macallan is the number two malt.
The spokesman declined to say whether further distillery expansion projects are in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, sales of The Macallan continue to grow in China.
The spokesman said: "The Macallan is a luxury spirit at the very top end of the market in China, and we are starting to see in China a rising and growing middle class for whom the brand is coming to be viewed as a possibility. We are still very optimistic about future growth in China."
Edrington acquired The Macallan when it bought Highland Distillers in 1999.