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Whisky production has started in Inverness for the first time in nearly 40 years with the official opening of Uile-bheist, a new combined distillery and brewery.

The launch of what’s been labelled Scotland’s first and only ‘brewstillery’ also marks the first time beer has been produced in the Highland city in more than 30 years.

Built at a cost of £7.5m, Uile-bheist brings 40 new jobs to Inverness and will focus on creating “the finest artisan whisky and beer”.

Regarding the name, ‘Uile-bheist’ is Gaelic for ‘monster’ which, given the business is located eight miles from Loch Ness, requires no further explanation.

Whisky production is overseen by Master Distiller and Brewer Bruce Smith, who combines a Master’s Degree in Brewing & Distilling from Heriot-Watt University with a wealth of experience in the craft beer industry.

He will be responsible for creating a Highland Single Malt made with 100% locally sourced barley and water from the River Ness. Around 200 casks will be produced annually, which Smith said will make Uile-bheist “one of the rarest whiskies in Scotland”.

The new make spirit will be matured in ex-bourbon and sherry casks. Smith said: “The whisky will let us know when it’s ready and we have no intention to rush it. Quality is our number one focus.”

Smith is also in charge of the small-batch brewery, which produces five core styles of beer using a longer than average conditioning stage: Craft Lager, Pale Ale, IPA, White IPA and Stout.

Sustainable spirit

Uile-bheist is one of the lowest carbon distilleries on the planet; a water source heat pump harnesses heat from the River Ness and solar panels generate its electricity.

Together, these provide heating and hot water services for the brewstillery and its neighbouring hotel, apartments and restaurant, saving an estimated 250 tonnes of carbon each year.

What’s more, spent grain – a by-product of the brewery and distillery processes – is repurposed and reused as a feed for livestock. Not only does this reduce waste and benefit the environment, but it also supports local agriculture and helps create a more circular economy.

Commenting on the launch, Uile-bheist owner Jon Erasmus said: “We wanted to create something unique to the area, with the distillery, and brewery both powered by the famous River Ness. All water used in the processes will also be sourced from the river, meaning that when you drink Uilebheist’s liquid, you really are tasting the Highlands.

“Creating both beer and whisky simultaneously will allow us to offer an immediate product and whilst we wait for the whisky to reach maturity, there will be an opportunity to own one of a limited number of casks of the Uile-bheist Single Malt Whisky distilled in the first year of production, through our cask programme.”