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Alan Higgs Architects reveals new distillery for Scotland’s ‘whisky island’

Alan Higgs Architects reveals new distillery for Scotland’s ‘whisky island’

Photo Credit: Architects Journal

Alan Higgs Architects has unveiled designs for a ‘drum-like’ whisky distillery on Islay

The London-based practice submitted plans to Argyll and Bute Council Scotland for the distillery, which aims to be carbon-neutral, at Gearach Farm, near Port Charlotte.

Known as ‘whisky island’ for its long history of producing single malts, Islay, despite only being 25 miles long, has nine distilleries already and more are in planning.

Most of the island’s existing distilleries are designed with traditional shed-like forms, featuring distinctive white walls and grey roofs, but Alan Higgs Architects’ new addition proposes a circular design

According to the practice, the new distillery, to be called Ili, was inspired by the island’s many circular buildings, such as the 18th century Bowmore Church, its lighthouses and prehistoric duns, or forts.

The practice said: ‘This shape is the most efficient way to enclose space, maps the process of making whisky and evokes the tuns, tanks, pipes, stills, barrels and bottles that are emblematic of spirit-making.

‘It signifies the creative approach of Ili as a distillery, would attract visitors, and add to the built heritage of the Isle of Islay.’

The distillery is planning to use heat pump technology and is aiming to function ‘almost entirely off-grid’ by using wind, solar and hydrogen renewable energy.

The building’s entry level will provide a welcome desk, shop and café, while a mezzanine serves the upper parts of washbacks, tuns and stills. The remainder of the space is open to the still house below, with views to Loch Gearach

At the centre of the plan is a glazed drum with an oculus above, which will house a tasting room and area for introducing visitor tours. Its floor is a moving platform, lowering visitors at the table to the production floor.

The practice said the materials philosophy for the project was to ‘use natural, reduce and source locally’ with minimal concrete use and aggregates sourced from site to reduce carbon emissions through transport.

The practice has designed the scheme for clients Bertram Nesselrode, whose family owns the farm, and Scott McLellan, a local farmer.

The distillery aims to be completed by summer 2023.

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