THE first new distillery to be built on Islay since 2005 has officially opened its doors.

Hunter Laing & Co, headed by veteran whisky blender Stewart Laing, has invested £12 million to develop the Ardnahoe Distillery, which sits on the island’s north-east coast between the Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain distilleries.

It marks the first move into distilling by Mr Laing, who runs Hunter Laing with sons Andrew and Scott, with Ardnahoe becoming the ninth working distillery on the Islay.

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The company hopes to employ up to 30 staff in a range of roles at Ardnahoe ,and attract around 20,000 visitors a year to the distillery, which offers panoramic views of the Sound of Islay, Paps of Jura, Mull and Colonsay.

Master distiller Jim McEwan, the whisky veteran who was born in Bowmore, will oversee production of what the firm said will be a classic peated Islay malt. The spirit will be matured in ex-America bourbon and ex-Spanish sherry casks.

The 400 casks made available to private enthusiasts and collectors on a pre-order basis quickly sold out, Hunter Laing said.

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Mr Laing said: “Since working as a teenager at Bruichladdich Distillery over 50 years ago, I have had a huge affinity with Islay and its malt whiskies. When we decided to build our own distillery, there was only one possible location.

"We have built a great team to manage the distillery and run the visitor centre and in a few years’ time we will be able to drink a great whisky in the classic Islay style, staying true to the island’s heritage with a heavily peated malt.”

Kilchoman was the last new distillery to open on the island 14 years ago, joining Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Laphroaig.

Diageo launched a project in 2017 to bring the “lost” Port Ellen distillery out of mothballs, while Bruichladdich at Port Charlotte is receiving heavy investment from French owner Remy Cointreau.

Ardnahoe was officially opened today by Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, the former Labour minister and secretary general of NATO.