Borders Distillery is still a waiting game
Opened in 2018 to great aplomb, the distillery is the first to produce Scotch whisky in the Borders since 1837.
At a celebratory event at Kelso Races on Sunday for distillery staff and farmers who grow the all-important barley for the amber nectar, managing director John Fordyce told the Southern it was all going as good as it could.
John, who along with fellow veterans of the whisky industry Tim Carton, Tony Roberts, and George Tait, founded the distillery, said: “It’s all going quite well.
"We’re up to around 19 staff now, and we’re the only distillers in Scotland whose majority of staff are female.
"We’re enjoying it very much.”
The distillery has a long-term relationship with Simpson’s Malt in Berwick.
To keep its operations as eco-friendly as possible, and to support the local economy, the proviso from the beginning was that maltster would only use barley from farms within a 35-mile radius of the distillery itself, and it’s an arrangement that is proving fruitful for all concerned.
The distillery draws its water for the whisky from an underground lake well below the site at Commercial Road, and the neighbouring River Teviot provides the water for cooling.
But as with all distilleries producing single malt whisky, its true worth can only be unveiled through time … it’s one of the industry’s biggest gambles.
John added: “The thing about the whisky industry is that you need to be quite comfortable with the idea of uncertainty.
"Because you don’t really ever know what's going to happen.
"We have really basic principles: a good supply chain relationship; highly-trained staff; using the best of everything we can afford; and we will know in a few years how that’s worked.
"Around 95% of our work is making the single malt whisky, and it's still at the storage stage … it’s a long game.
"In a sense, if you think it we’re very much aligned with farmers in that respect.
"If a farmer is planting hedgerows now, they won't get payback on that for 15 or 20 years.
"The true test is at the end of the eight years, whether everyone will want to roll again.”
For the time being, the distillery is also producing its Puffing Billy Steam Vodka and Kerr's Gin, as well as its Malt and Rye blended Scotch whisky, which was distilled from a small batch of rye spirit in 2019 and matured in the same fresh-fill bourbon casks as the long-awaited-for single malt.
John added: “The vodka and the gin are not a big deal for us, but it’s well received locally.
"The Malt and Rye is the first whisky to be produced and sold in the Borders for 185 years.”