Hawick a perfect choice to revive whisky tradition – In a town built on solid and stirring traditions, the Hawick community jumped at the chance to stick a new feather in its Scottish Borders bonnet.
Internationally renowned for the manufacture of high quality textiles, Hawick is now at the heart of restoring a Borders tradition that turns the clock back over 180 years.
It was in 1837 – the same year that Victoria was crowned queen and young Oliver Twist made his literary debut - that the region’s only distillery at Kelso closed down.
Now, we are delighted to say, whisky manufacturing is back – courtesy of The Three Stills Company – and the Borders Distillery is proving to be a class act.
Locals and visitors alike were able to follow an 18-month transformation of the old Turnbull and Scott factory in Commercial Road into a superb distillery and visitor centre that quickly received the highest 5* accreditation from VisitScotland.
The building’s modern open plan aspects and all the trappings of a modern distillery have been sympathetically incorporated with original industrial features – a blend that has been very well received and matches anticipation of the distillery’s single malt whisky.
Distilling started in March 2018, five years after the original idea first started to take shape with John Fordyce, George Tait, Tim Carton and Tony Roberts – a quartet with plenty of experience in drinks, spirits, and manufacturing.
They knew the industry, knew the market and they all shared a vision to bring distilling back to the Scottish Borders. At Hawick, they agreed, the chemistry was just right.
The Borders Distillery has access to water from the River Teviot for cooling purposes and from an on-site borehole that goes into the spirit. There’s also a ready supply of local barley, essential ingredients for future success.
Tourism Manager at the distillery, Charlie Beaumont, said: “We wanted a location where a distillery would become a living part of the local community and complement and add to its industrial heritage. Hawick had ticked all the boxes.
“We have brought a building that was decaying and derelict back to life. It presents a very open working environment incorporating a visitor centre and shop that presently sells two whiskies, alongside a high quality range of associated gifts – Clan Fraser Reserve and a blended malt, Lower East Side, which are made to their own recipe.
Distillery tours have become very popular and they take place Monday to Saturday, every hour, on the hour from 10am to 4pm. They are organised for groups of up to 12 people and bespoke tours are available for whisky enthusiasts
“The Borders Distillery set up with a core team with huge experience in producing whisky and they are now passing those skills down to a local workforce. The present one-shift operation will eventually graduate to 24-hour production with a workforce of around 18 people,” said Charlie.
William Kerr’s Borders Gin is also available from the distillery shop. It is produced from scratch onsite using a small amount of the same new make spirit which is distilled for single malt whisky, making it stand out in an increasingly crowded gin market.
The malty, fruity new make spirit goes through further distillation in a specially commissioned Carter Head still where eleven botanicals combine with the redistilled new make to create a gin of remarkable flavor and quality.
“People are looking for something different to fill their glass and if it has decent provenance all the better.
For now, the stills are quietly and efficiently getting on with the main job in hand, working towards the next manufacturing milestone of May 2021 when the Borders Distillery will be able to call its maturing spirit Scotch Whisky for the first time.
The first casks were laid down on May 10, 2018 and the distillery is building six warehouses in Hawick where wood and spirit can slowly interact over time.
To celebrate the return of whisky distilling to the Borders for the first time since 1837, The Borders Distillery is making 1,837 casks containing 200 litres of spirit – potentially 300 bottles of whisky – available to the public for purchase.
And plenty have been taking up the offer, stamping their names on specially imported oak casks that will deliver an exclusive single cask whisky. The cost comes in at £1995.00 and includes storage and insurance for up to ten years. Duty and VAT will have to be paid upon bottling.