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Lerwick Distillery, Shetland’s first single malt Scotch whisky distillery is due to start production in the summer.

The distillery is the brainchild of whisky connoisseur and former chartered accountant Martin Watt, who had been considering the idea for well over a decade but had been thwarted by the lack of a suitable site.

He has now found a home for the distillery in Shetland’s ‘capital’ Lerwick. It has been designed by master distiller Ian Millar, a whisky industry veteran who has previously worked for Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Blair Athol Distillery, Bladnoch, Mortlach and Glen Elgin over the course of a 50-year career.

The distillery will be located in an almost 300 square metre disused commercial property on Lerwick’s Market Street which, oddly enough, was formerly called Whisky Lane. Capacity is projected to be up to 200,000 litres of whisky a year, with initial production one-third of that amount. It is hoped that 10 to 15 full-time equivalent jobs will eventually be created.

The site will also incorporate a shop, and distillery tours and tastings are planned. Its Lerwick location was chosen to capitalise on the 150,000 cruise ship passengers who visit the town annually; travel and cruise operators have already made enquiries about tours.

A first shipment of equipment – including fermenters, condensers and a mash tun – is due to arrive in March, followed by the stills a month later. Installation is predicted to take around five or six weeks, with production due to start in June or July.

The first Shetland single malt won’t be available before summer 2027 at the earliest, but Martin plans to sell new-make spirit in the distillery shop from the outset. Ironically, the spirit will be called Haad Still, a Shetland phrase meaning ‘hold on’.

Despite its abundance in Shetland, the new spirit won’t be peated, reflecting a drive by the wider whisky industry towards a more sustainable future.

It will, however, be made using a tiny proportion of what’s known as ‘chocolate malt’ in the malt mix – barley that has been malted for longer than usual to give it a caramelised taste profile.

Master distiller Ian Millar commented: “The first Single Malt Whisky ever from the Shetland Islands, it’s a wonderful opportunity do something quite unique and remarkable.”