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  • Writer's pictureLinda Andrews - Editorial Assistant, Nuse Online

Shetland’s First Whisky Distillery Is Set To Open In 2024

Shetland is due to get its first ever whisky distillery in 2024, after the business owners accessed specialist advice from Business Gateway.

Lerwick Distillery will open its doors later this year, with a date to be announced.

The concept that began more than a decade ago between friends Martin Watt and Calum Miller is nearing completion. They found a site for the distillery in 2022 and have been planning the build and eventual opening ever since.

As well as Martin and Calum, who have established backgrounds in chartered accountancy and architecture, Lerwick Distillery also has Caroline MacIntyre and Ian Millar on board as sales director and master distiller respectively. Caroline has extensive experience in hospitality and sales, while Ian has worked in the whisky industry for over 50 years and has worked with a number of major whisky brands, including almost 25 years at William Grant & Sons.

Scottish law dictates that a spirit cannot legally be called a whisky until it has matured for at least three years and one day, and the distillery plans to bottle a ‘new make’ spirit to cover operational costs for the first few years. This product will be called Haad Still – a traditional Shetland phrase for ‘hold on’, encouraging people to wait for the whisky to mature.

In time, the distillery will also offer tours to customers, with tourists being a particular target market.

Having secured the site in 2022, the team accessed business advice from Business Gateway after a recommendation from Shetland Islands Council, and met Business Gateway adviser, Diana Abernethy. Diana provided one-to-one support to the team in advance of distilling, helped raise their profile and signposted them to avenues to access vital funding.

The business accessed a start-up grant from Shetland Islands Council, which contributed to photography costs for use on social media. The social media and imagery directly helped raise share capital towards the opening of the distillery.

Martin and Callum’s initial funding target was to raise £1m, but they far exceeded this, and have been able to secure premises that are four times the original size they had planned.

Martin Watt, Director of Lerwick Distillery said:

"The support that we received from Business Gateway has been excellent. Diana was able to point out things that we had missed in our business plan, and gave us access to great contacts to help us develop."

“If it hadn’t been for the funding Business Gateway signposted us to, we would not have raised enough share capital to be able to expand the business so quickly. The £4,000 funding resulted in an extra £682,000 share capital investment that really wasn't expected. We truly couldn’t have done this without Business Gateway.”

Diana Abernethy, Business Gateway adviser said:

“Shetland is the last area of the UK without a distillery, so to be able to help Martin and Callum reach the goal of being the first distillery on the island has been fantastic. It’s an exciting brand and journey they’re embarking on and will give such a boost to tourism in the area and the local economy.”

To find out more about how Business Gateway can help your business, visit here.


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