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Single malt whisky distilling returns to Edinburgh after a 90 year absence  

David Robertson
Single malt whisky distilling is poised to return to Scotland’s capital after a 90 year absence, following the City of Edinburgh Council’s decision to enter into a lease with a new distillery at the Engine Shed near Holyrood Park.
Whisky expert and former Master Distiller for The Macallan, David Robertson, is behind plans to open the Holyrood Park Distillery - a £2 million boutique micro-distillery and visitor experience at the Engine Shed building in the heart of the city.


The proposal is now subject to a planning application.  

David Robertson, project lead and master distiller of the Holyrood Park Distillery, said:  “We are very excited by the prospect of resurrecting the proud tradition of distilling single malt whisky in Edinburgh, following a 90 year absence of whisky distilling in the capital.  

“The production and export of whisky is perhaps Scotland’s most iconic industry, supporting huge numbers of jobs, and visiting a distillery is a must for most visitors to Scotland. It seems to us that the one place missing a single malt distillery is Edinburgh, the capital of the country known for the world’s most famous whisky – Scotland. We hope to be able to create an immersive and entertaining visitor experience, supporting the local economy through jobs and training opportunities, while reinforcing the capital’s position as a world class tourism destination.  

“Most importantly, our goal is to create beautiful, hand-crafted single malt whiskies which will stand shoulder to shoulder with the other great single malts that are now being produced in Scotland and elsewhere. The Engine Shed building is the ideal location for us to realise this ambition. With its history dating back to the 1830s, it will provide a fantastic home for us to create a small, but world class distillery and tourist destination of which Edinburgh can be proud.”  

The Holyrood Park Distillery will be developed with the visitor experience fully integrated into the design of the facility. Visitors will be able to follow the distillation process from start to finish, experiencing at first hand the creation of Edinburgh’s only single malt.  

The boutique distillery will also host an education facility to be used as a community and school resource for learning about whisky distilling and the rich history of the site. Visitors will be able to enjoy locally sourced food and drink at an on-site restaurant and bar and ambitions stretch to establishing a weekend market for local crafts and products in the courtyard.  Subject to final design and receipt of planning permission, there are also plans to provide facilities for community events.  

Holyrood Park Distillery will initially employ up to 25 staff at varying levels, from trainees right up to experienced distillery operators, tourism and production managers. The business aims to start distilling whisky by Summer 2016 and release a single malt whisky within four years. Due to the small scale of the operation, it will produce only 100,000 litres of alcohol per year, resulting in around 250,000 bottles of mature single malt in 8 to 12 years’ time.   

Edinburgh has a long and proud history of whisky production. Back in the late 1700s there were eight licensed distilleries and it is estimated that there may have been as many as 400 illegal stills in Edinburgh. Urban production fell out of fashion but is currently enjoying a boom, with urban distilleries popping up in some of the world’s iconic cities including New York, London, Dublin, Glasgow, Portland, Nashville, New Orleans, LA, Detroit, San Francisco and Austin.  

Glen Sciennes was the last single malt whisky distillery to operate in Edinburgh, and was also located in the St. Leonard’s area. The distillery’s maltings were sited near the Engine Shed before its closure in 1925 and later demolition.

The Engine Shed building was built in the 1830s as a goods warehouse for the Edinburgh and Dalkeith Railway, also known as “The Innocent Railway”. Under the ownership of Lothian Regional Council, the building was renovated and, most recently, leased by a social enterprise providing a supportive living and working environment for people with learning disabilities.

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