ONE of Scotland’s biggest Scotch whisky distillers is to establish production on Islay for the first time.

Chivas Brothers, which makes Ballantine’s, Chivas Regal, The Glenlivet, and Royal Salute, has announced plans to build a distillery at Gartbreck Farm, west of Bowmore at Saltpan Point on the shore of Loch Indaal.

The as-yet-unamed distillery, which will offer views across the loch to Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte, will focus on producing Islay single malt, “celebrating the region’s distinctly smoky and peated profile”.

Chivas said the whisky made at the new distillery will round off its offering of single malt and blended Scotch whiskies.

Revealed: Doors open at first new distillery on Islay since 2005

And it declared that its purchase of land for the distillery underlines its commitment to become “part of the fabric of Islay as it has been for decades through Speyside and the surrounds”.

Jean-Etienne Gourgues, chairman and chief executive of Chivas, said: “This is an important new chapter in the Chivas Brothers story. The introduction of an Islay whisky completes our comprehensive and award-winning Scotch portfolio.

“As a business built on hundreds of years of heritage, it also gives us the opportunity to do something we rarely do, which is to start from scratch.

“Here on Islay, we can create a blueprint for carbon neutral distilling and continue to usher in this era of sustainable Scotch. We are committed to Scotch, to the Islay community and the landscape that makes it the perfect place to continue our vision to shape the future of whisky.”

Chivas, which is owned by French drinks giant Pernod Ricard, said full plans for the site will be “revealed in due course”. But it did commit the new Islay distillery to being “carbon neutral in distillation from inception”.

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The company has a target to become carbon neutral in distillation across all of its sites by the end of 2026.

There are currently nine distilleries in operation on Islay, with the most recent, Ardnahoe, opened by Glasgow-based whisky bottler and blender Hunter Laing in 2019.

Ardnahoe, which sits on the island’s north-east coast, was the first new distillery to open on the island since 2005, when Kilchoman launched, joining Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Laphroaig.

Diageo plans to reopen the famous Port Ellen Distillery on Islay, which has been mothballed since 1983, in the coming months. Port Ellen is one of two “ghost” distilleries the company has been bringing back into production as part of a £35 million investment programme along with Brora in Sutherland. Production was restored at Brora in 2021 after 40 years in mothballs.

Chivas revealed its plans for Islay after announcing in June that it would make the expertise and findings from its integration of pioneering heat recovery technology “open source” for the benefit of the wider Scotch whisky industry.

It said it was taking the step after the application of the technology at its Glentauchers Distillery in Speyside resulted in a significant reduction in carbon emissions.

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Chivas declared that by sharing its design process and implementation insights it is putting collaboration ahead of competition, as the whisky industry aspires to slash carbon emissions to net zero.

Earlier this month, the distiller said it had yet to see any impact on sales from the cost-of-living crisis as it posted a 25% increase in net sales for the year to June 30.

Speaking to The Herald, Mr Gourgues highlighted the “diversification of our portfolio in terms of brands and geographical footprint” as he said sales of the distiller’s four strategic international brands – Ballantine’s, Chivas Regal, The Glenlivet and Royal Salute – had all grown by over 20%.