DRINKS giant Diageo plans to double production of the famously waxy spirit from its Clynelish distillery in Sutherland to as much as nine million litres a year as the whisky industry's expansion continues apace.

Under proposals submitted to Highland Council, Clynelish, Diageo's most northerly distillery, will have an additional mashtun installed for soaking the malted barley. Another 10 washbacks will be installed for the fermentation process and six more copper stills added for distilling the spirit.

Currently, the distillery has 10 washbacks and six stills, meaning production capacity will be doubled.

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A bio-energy plant is also planned for the site to help power the distillery.

Diageo will hold a community engagement session next month.

The scheme is part of a £1 billion investment prog­ramme announced by Diageo, the world's largest spirits company, in June 2012, three years after it announced the controversial closure of the Johnnie Walker bottling plant at Kilmarnock.

Its Glen Ord distillery has just received six new copper stills as part of a £25 million scheme to double capacity there.

Diageo is also doubling the capacity at the Teaninich Distillery in Alness and intends to build a new malt distillery nearby.

A bonded warehouse site is also being developed at Cluny in Fife.

Diageo's arch rival, Pernod Ricard, has its own growth plans, including a new malt distillery at Carron in Speyside to add five million litres of additional spirit each year. Meanwhile, a host of independent operators plan to open distilleries in locations from Shetland to Dumfries and Galloway.