02 February 2024
MacInnes' Tour of the Port of Leith Distillery
by Ben Hopkins-Lefevre
High on any whisky lover’s to-do list is a whisky distillery tour. But add the excitement of one of the most unique distilleries in existence; the largest and tallest vertical distillery in fact, and you’ve got your dream visit, surely? On our recent trip to Edinburgh to further deepen our trade relationships within the industry, Founder Jon Hook and I recently took the opportunity to do just that.
Having been unable to go on a tour on our previous visit to Leith Docks, we made sure to book this next trip around the working tour days available at the Port of Leith Distillery. And we weren’t disappointed.
Despite the howling winds and bitterly cold temperatures outside, it was a great day for a tour. Not yet a working distillery, we felt like we were recording a real moment in time. In just a matter of months, the distillery will be in full flow, with all the sounds, smells and incredible taste of great whisky production in abundance. But for now, this was a rare opportunity to see everything at its very beginning - brand-spanking new and ready for service.
Starting our tour from the Distillery Shop, we descended to the start of our distillery tour learning about the team's early days. The distillery owes a lot to the development of sister brand Lind & Lime Gin, so called because of Leith’s connection to Dr Lind - who in his time helped to cure scurvy, with the addition of citrus fruits in sailors’ rum - and the Lime being famed in the area, as Rose’s, makers of lime cordial & marmalade, developed and owned huge factories around the Port of Leith in the mid 20th century.
Early days for Port of Leith began in their Global HQ, within the Lind & Lime building itself.
We entered into the distillery’s first operating level, where the malted barley will in time be lifted from ground level up to the ultra-modern mill at the top of the process. We discovered that through a great partnership with Crisp Malt and local farmers James and Andrew Clark, the malt used to make Port of Leith whiskies will make a mere 90-mile round trip from Farm to Maltings to Distillery. Their agreements will also enable the distillery team input over the farming and selection over time, to give even control of the final flavours of their whisky.
A pure water source is often a matter of paramount importance to lovers of the finest Scotch whiskies. The water for Port of Leith Distillery is drawn from an aquifer 120 metres down below the distillery, fed with water from the Pentland Hills.
We learnt that a combination of 2 yeasts are so far tabled for production - 1 sourced from Belgium and 1 from Norway, offering very different characteristics in the finished new make spirit. Identified as types 1 and 2 at the time of tasting.
An incredible discovery was that the huge fermentation tanks suspended high up within the distillery had to be installed during the construction of the steel framework for the building.
These stunning copper stills were made in Elgin and will likely last around 25 years.
Outside, behind the stills, the haunting but beautiful image of Antony Gormley’s figure of a man at the end of an abandoned pier outside Port of Leith Distillery. The figure forms part of an extensive collection called 6 TIMES - a stunning piece of sculpture, particularly in such a meaningful setting.
If you'd like to find out more about our recent trip to Edinburgh, where to visit if you want to see whisky sights and tours, or to discuss a whisky investment opportunity, give the team a call on 0207 100 7321 or email us at email@example.com.
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