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Distillery in high spirits as it exceeds production targets

Wolfburn Distillery has exceeded production targets in its first year of operation with 811 casks filled with spirit.

The distillery in Thurso, Caithness, was the first of a clutch of new distilleries expected to open over the coming years when it was completed early this year. Full production started on January 25.

The distillery has produced 190,000 litres of bulk spirit, some 7000 more than forecast.

Shane Fraser, production manager at Wolfburn, said: "It has been a truly fantastic first year, with production levels far ahead of expectations. Right from the start the distillery equipment performed beautifully - we have had very little downtime, which has allowed us not only to maximise yields but also to implement a rolling maintenance plan to ensure the plant continues to operate as efficiently as possible."

The casks his team have filled are the equivalent of 375,000 bottles of whisky and include small 120 litre quarter casks, ex-bourbon hogsheads with 250 litres of capacity and huge 500 litre Spanish sherry butts.

Assistant manager Iain Kerr said: "We're aiming to make Wolfburn a very smooth, aromatic and pleasing whisky to drink. So far the results have been absolutely excellent."

Wolfburn, which claims the title of the northernmost distillery on the Scottish mainland, has already released some casks to private investors and collectors.

Mr Fraser, who previously worked at Glenfarclas, said: "The interest from serious enthusiasts has been very impressive.

"We plan to release a few more next year, particularly to overseas collectors."

The spirit legally becomes whisky in 2016.

Malted barley and casks have been delivered to Wolfburn's premises in Thurso for the start of 2014 production in early January.

The distillery was built 380 yards from the original Wolfburn distillery which dates back to 1821 and was at one time one of the largest distilleries in Scotland.

Other new distilleries in the pipeline include the Adelphi Distillery at Ardnamurchan, Argyll; Kingsbarns Distillery in Fife; Annandale Distillery near Dumfries; and Falkirk Whisky Distillery in Polmont.

Drinks giant Diageo recently unveiled an £18 million plan to double capacity at its Mortlach distillery on Speyside and promote it as a standalone single malt.

It also plans a new malt whisky distillery for Teaninich near Alness in the Highlands.

Pernod Ricard, owner of Chivas Regal and Ballantine's, is also building a new distillery in Speyside which it hopes to open towards the end of next year.

Edrington has announced it is to invest more than £100m in a new distillery and visitor centre for Macallan whisky.

The new Speyside distillery is slated to be up and running by early 2017.

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