For most businesses, anniversaries are marked with a social media post, a small party or maybe a new limited-edition product.
Famed for its award-winning range of gins, vodka and liqueurs, the family-run business is now set to start producing its own malt whisky, as well as opening a café and shop. “Right from the start we had plans to be a spirits distillery, making more than just gin,” says owner Stuart Brown. “Whisky was always an area we were keen to move into, and we eventually want to add a number of malt and different cask whiskies to our range, including 100% Orkney whisky, made with locally grown grains malted here at the distillery.”
Stuart and his wife Adelle initially set-up the business in 2016 before opening the distillery and launching their first products the following year. The couple enjoyed making their own gins as a hobby before realising it was a passion they wanted to explore professionally. Stuart – a chartered engineer to trade – designed and built the current distillery and the business has continued to grow ever since.
And growth is very much the vision as far as the expansion project goes. As well as a new whisky still house and cask storage area, there will be a larger vodka still so that side of the business can continue to develop. The café and shop will be supplemented with new visitor viewing areas and a car park to cope with an expected increase in visitors.
“We already have a very busy visitor and shop area during the summer months but we’ve always been limited by space,” says Stuart. “Hopefully the expansion will encourage more people to come and see us, and give us more space to grow the business too.
“We’re planning for the café to be open all-year-round alongside the distillery – the aim is to help market the east mainland as a real destination for both locals and visitors.”
It’s also hoped that the new-look distillery will become an important employer in the area too, with positions for distilling, production, catering, retail and seasonal staff all likely to become available.
Planning permission for the project has been approved by Orkney Islands Council and now the next step is to begin building consent and construction. The team is working to a tight timescale and hopes to see construction work start later this year, with a tentative opening date set for April 2023.
As Orkney and the rest of the country begins to edge closer to some sense of normality after more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, launching into a large-scale expansion could be seen as a risk. But for Stuart, there is no time like the present. “Over the last two years we’ve been lucky enough to continue to grow despite the challenges faced.
“I really do believe the best time to start a project like this is during a challenging period, so you’re ready and up and running when the better times return.”
Visit the official Deerness Distillery website to find out more about the team and the products on offer.