Harris distillery wins investor’s backing

The site where the Harris Distillery will be built
The site where the Harris Distillery will be built

THE £10m project to build the first commercial whisky distillery on the Isle of Harris has secured significant commitments from two new investors in the UK and Asia, taking it into the final phase of financing.

Their pledges totalling £1.5million means the Isle of Harris Distillers plan has now achieved a high proportion of its private equity finance target after attracting investors from Britain, Europe and the Far East.

And the important financial boost for the project comes as Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has declared his support for the proposal. Mr Salmond said: “The development has huge potential for the island, its economy and its people.

“Other industries should be learning from the long-term strategy and continuing investment of the Scotch Whisky industry, which sees exports at an all time high.

“Harris’s natural resources will undoubtedly lend themselves to creating another exceptional and unique island malt.”

Isle of Harris Distillers intend to build and operate the distillery at Tarbert on Harris to produce “a malt of outstanding quality” in a move that will open up a new whisky region in Scotland.

The planning application for the distillery – which aims to provide 20 direct jobs in one of Scotland’s most fragile economic areas, as well as giving a significant impetus to tourism for Harris – has been lodged and is progressing through the planning process.

The project plan also anticipates support from the public sector which is interested in the significant economic benefit the distillery can bring to the Harris, and wider Outer Hebridean economy.

“The commitment of our new investors is a fantastic boost taking us so close to our equity financing target,” said Isle of Harris Managing Director Designate Simon Erlanger.

“Talks are ongoing with other potential investors about the final £1.3m private equity tranche which we hope to close soon.

“We would expect to finalise fund-raising by the early part of next year, to make possible our planned opening date for the distillery in the latter part of 2014.”

“The project is attracting a rather special type of investor,” said Anderson Bakewell, Founder and Chairman of IHD: “those who sees its long-term nature not as disadvantageous but as fundamental to the creation of something of quality with benefits that accrue over generations.

“They’re keenly aware that producing a fine whisky is not something that happens overnight, but draw confidence from the buoyant market and prospect of a new malt with such a rich and unusual provenance. They also appreciate that the distillery will be the centrepiece of a project with a commitment to the well-being of these remote islands which constitute the heartland of Gaelic culture.”