The re-opening, on June 14, is part of Pernod Ricard’s ambitious expansion plans which have included the £10 million expansion of The Glenlivet distillery in 2010, increasing its distillation capacity by 75%. The company has committed £40 million annual capital expenditure on its Chivas Brothers’ operations.
The programme of investment will culminate in the building of a new distillery at Carron on the River Spey, to open in 2014. Planning permission for the project was granted by Moray Council in April this year.
Prior to re-opening, the distillery underwent a major upgrade, resulting in a 50% greater malt distillation capacity. Work included the installation of new malt storage facilities, and a new mash-house and tun-room, which accommodates the new mash tun along with six additional washbacks, bringing the total to 15. The distillery’s existing six still were also refurbished.
Glen Keith, along with expansion work at Glenallachie, Longmorn, Glentauchers and Tormore distilleries will increase the company’s malt distillation capacity by a further 25%. While in Paisley it opened a new super-premium bottling hall, focused on the hand-packaging of its highest-value expressions.
The company says its re-opening will help meet increasing worldwide demand for its luxury Scotch whiskies, which include the Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s and Royal Salute blends.
Glen Keith was officially re-opened by UK government Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment, Richard Lochhead, who is also MSP for Moray.
He said: “The Scotch whisky industry is one of Scotland’s great success stories with exports hitting a record £4.3 billion in 2012. It also provides valuable jobs across rural Scotland, which in turn supports communities, particularly in Speyside where we have a concentration of distilleries. There are of course knock on benefits for other industry sectors such as tourism. Whisky can act as a draw for visitors curious to see where their favourite tipple is made and for the local manufacturing sector who provide the fabrication skills for the whisky industry to continue to thrive."
Christian Porta, Chivas Brothers Chairman and CEO, said: “It is wonderful to see this distillery re-opened and producing spirit once again. The fact that we are re-opening a silent distillery, and are soon to build a brand-new distillery in the region, shows just how strong the demand for our luxury Scotch whiskies is.
“With our extensive inventory of more than six million casks, and this new increased distilling capacity, we are well placed to continue to meet this demand, safeguarding the future of our award-winning brands for decades to come. The sweet, fruity spirit produced at Glen Keith, will be aged in oak casks and used in the Chivas Regal and Royal Salute blends, as it was in the past,” said Porta.
Chivas says environmental improvements at Glen Keith will make it one of the company’s most energy efficient, with the heat generated during distillation being recycled within the process. The latest generation of still thermo compression systems has for the first time been incorporated into both wash and spirit distillations. This gives a further energy usage reduction of 15% compared to Chivas Brothers’ current most efficient distillery.