PLANS to build the first Scotch whisky distillery on Islay for more than a decade have been unveiled by Glasgow-based Hunter Laing & Company.

Family-owned blender and bottler Hunter Laing is making its first move into distilling with its plans for an £8 million investment in the new-build project at Ardnahoe, near Port Askaig on the north-east coast of Islay. It hopes the first spirit will be produced by the end of 2017, with the planning process expected to take several months and the construction phase forecast to last for a little more than a year.

Director Scott Laing said the proposed distillery would, subject to approval of the application for planning permission submitted to Argyll & Bute Council, be the first to be built on Islay since Kilchoman. The distillery at Kilchoman was established in 2005.

Mr Laing added that he expected the distillery would be named Ardnahoe, given the location of the planned four-acre site. He noted that it would draw water from Ardnahoe Loch.

He cited “huge demand” for Islay whisky around the world. And he noted that Hunter Laing, in its capacity as a blender and bottler, was currently experiencing demand for Islay whisky that outstripped its supply.

Managing director Stewart Laing, an industry veteran who joined sons Scott and Andrew in launching Hunter Laing in May 2013 after decades running Scotch blender and bottler Douglas Laing & Co with brother Fred, emphasised a bottled Islay single malt was the focus of the Ardnahoe distillery investment.

Andrew Laing, who is also a director of Hunter Laing, said that the distillery would have the capacity to produce 500,000 litres of alcohol per year. Production of about 200,000 litres of alcohol is planned in the first year of operation.

Stewart Laing, who did a six-month apprenticeship at Bruichladdich distillery on Islay in 1964 and has family connections to Islay, said of the capacity: “It is better to make it bigger at the moment, rather than do it once we are up and running.”

Hunter Laing noted that, if planning permission were granted for the project, land owned by Islay Estates would be transferred to it.

Hunter Laing, which sells whisky in about 65 countries, said the building of the distillery was planned in two phases. The first stage would involve the establishment of distilling operations, warehousing, and a visitor centre including a cafe, tasting room, and shop.

The second phase would entail an expansion of distilling operations and further warehousing.

Hunter Laing said that contractors for the building project had been identified and would begin cutting turf in May, subject to planning approval.

The company added that the distillery would create several full-time jobs on Islay, and a number of seasonal roles.

Explaining the rationale for the project, Scott Laing said: “We would like to secure our own supply of spirit. We would like to always have something that is ours - that we put our name to. It is just a nice thing to do. We want to become part of a rural community a little bit, to start investing there.

“The bottom line is we are a business. Our judgment is this is the way forward for our business, to have a secure supply of single malt that we are producing for ourselves and we have 100 per cent control over.”

He added: “”One of our personal favourite styles is the traditional Islay style. I think it is always a good starting point, if you are going to make whisky…to [produce] what you like yourself. We like peaty Islay whisky.”

Asked when the first sales of whisky produced at the Ardnahoe distillery were likely to be made, Scott Laing said: “It takes a minimum of three years from the point the spirit goes into the cask…before it is whisky.

“We would probably wait a bit longer to make sure the spirit is something we are happy to put our name to.”

Asked about the financing of the project, Stewart Laing said: “The family is providing a fair chunk of funds. Equally, we are very pleased to have been supported by Clydesdale Bank.”

He added: “The surge in demand for single malt Scotch whisky from Islay in recent years has been extraordinary. While the established distilleries on the island have been increasing production, there is obvious room for yet further expansion in output as discerning drinkers the world over are charmed by the rich, smoke-filled flavours that have become such an integral part of the island’s style of whisky. The new facility is being designed to create a particular style of spirit that we know from our experience of selling whisky in 65 countries around the world will appeal to the Islay whisky lover. By building this distillery, we are fulfilling a long-held dream. ”

Andrew Laing said: “We have shown formidable growth in the last two years, and the time is now right for us to invest for the future. While this is our family’s first foray into distilling, my father’s 50-year record of blending quality products of high demand and our three generations of expertise in the whisky industry ensures we enter this venture with strong confidence.”

Lord Margadale, chairman of Islay Estates, said: “We are thrilled to be working with Hunter Laing in the development of a new distillery on Islay.

“This project will contribute considerably to the island’s economy through the direct provision of jobs. It will also increase the demand for barley from Islay farmers, and add to the attraction of Islay as a destination for the increasing number of followers of Scotch whisky around the world.”

He added: “Islay is a beautiful, tranquil and fertile island that is famed for its distinctive whisky. This is an exciting opportunity to build on this reputation, and to help secure a strong economic future for the Island.”

Several new Scotch whisky distilleries have been created in recent years, including one on the Isle of Harris.