By Scott Wright

ENTREPRENEUR Trevor Jackson has revealed plans to invest nearly £50 million in a grain distillery on his Scottish Borders estate, signalling hopes to bring an economic boost to the region.

Jackson Distillers is aiming to develop the first-ever distillery of its type in the area to meet growing demand for grain whisky for Scotch whisky blending, and to produce grain neutral spirit for gin and vodka producers.

The proposed St Boswells Distillery, which Mr Jackson is proposing to develop on his Charlesfield Industrial Estate, would be only the second grain distillery to be built in Scotland in 25 years, and just the eighth currently in operation north of the border.

The existing seven are Cameronbridge, owned by Diageo, Girvan (William Grant & Sons), Invergordon (Whyte & Mackay), Loch Lomond (Loch Lomond Group), North British Distillery (North British Co), Starlaw (Glen Turner Co) and Strathclyde (Chivas Brothers).

Asked why the decision was taken to pursue grain distilling at the estate, Mr Jackson told The Herald: “The Scottish Borders produces an awful lot of wheat and supplies all those grain distilleries; it is all going out of the area.

“My ethos is to try to be as clean and green as possible, which is why we put in the AD (anaerobic digestion) plant in 2015. We wanted to create a highly efficient, clean, green, modern grain distillery, which will add value to the wheat – of which produce half a million tonnes in the Borders – give the local economy a bit more resilience, and to take advantage of lowering food miles.”

He added: “You can find a malt distillery in most places; grain distilleries are rarer.”

Talks have already begun with Scottish gin producers over future supply deals, with Mr Jackson noting that most grain neutral spirit is currently sourced outside of Scotland.

He said producers are increasingly keen to demonstrate the full traceability of their products, right down to the grain neutral spirit that they are based on. “Just to have that as a Scottish product really attracts them,” he added. “It is not just Scottish gins that are going down that [route] it is the whole UK market that are looking for that traceable provenance.”

Mr Jackson is working with Edinburgh-based investment bank Noble & Co to raise £46m to build the distillery.

The investor base will include the highly experienced team Mr Jackson has assembled to lead the project, including a former finance director of Glenmorangie, and a former operations director of North British Distillery.

Mr Jackson is also looking to appeal to other long-term investors from outside the trade, stating that he sees the distillery as a “multi-generational opportunity”.

And while Mr Jackson is currently the biggest shareholder, he said that in the long run “the investors will be holding all the cards”.

Although 20 permanent, high-value posts are ultimately expected to be created at the distillery, it is thought that 200 will be employed during the construction process, bringing a boost to the local economy.

Mr Jackson declared that the facility would have the capacity to produce 20 million litres of pure alcohol per year, while pledging that it would be most resource-efficient grain distillery in Scotland.

Cereals grown in the Tweed Valley be used in the production process, and will be tracked throughout until, when spent, they will be converted into energy in the anaerobic digestion plant. The remaining material, or digestate, will be used as soil conditioner for the crops.

The plans also show that process water will be sourced from an on-site bore-hole, with the liquid used efficiently in order to minimise the use of natural resources throughout the production. Jackson Distillers said it expects its planning application to be heard by Scottish Borders Council in July. It is working on the plans with Michael Laird Architects, principal contractor Frilli s.r.l., Colorado Group and environmental consultant Mabbett.

Mr Jackson said he hopes construction work will start before the end of the year, with the distillery up and running at some stage between early and mid-2023.

The project is located on a diversified area, which includes 70 firms based in commercial units which employ around 400 people. The industrial estate emerged from a munitions factory that was established during the Second World War after the land was requisitioned.