Islay’s Infamous Gartbeck Distillery May Still Be Built

3D render of Gartbreck. Supplied.

Islay’s on-again-off-again unbuilt distillery Gartbreck has received a boost after one of the main obstacles for construction has been overcome.

Jean Donnay, the owner of Brittany’s Glann ar Mor distillery, originally received planning permission for Gartbreck in 2014 but ground has yet to be broken at the site, just south of Bowmore.

Earlier this year reports had indicated that the distillery was looking like an impossibility due to a land dispute between Donnay and renowned Glasgow-based independent bottler Hunter Laing. A small strip of land next to the distillery is owned by Hunter Laing, but will be needed for warehousing and car parking.

Having previously been unable to come to an agreement – a matter which spilled onto social media at times – report that Hunter Laing have agreed a price for the plot.

Donnay then confirmed the new on the distillery’s Facebook page, saying “I have come to an agreement with Hunter Laing for the selling of the land.

Things certainly do not look bad.

“This is naturally very good news and I thank Hunter Laing for having accepted to do so. This agreement changes a lot the situation and the prospect of the distillery.”

During the stop-start early years of Gartbreck, Hunter Laing have themselves begun building their own Islay distillery, with Ardnahoe looking to start production on the island’s east coast in April 2018. They have enlisted Islay and ex-Bruichladdich icon Jim McEwan to oversee proceedings.

While the land agreement is a boost, there is no guarantee that Gartbreck will still happen.

Donnay added, “At this moment I am sorry I cannot say much more than things certainly do not look bad, this appreciating that wisdom still pushes me to stay cautious.”

The tagline of Gartbreck’s plan has been to revive “traditional” whisky production methods, with live flame direct stills, Oregon pine washbacks, worm tubs and a slow distillation.

Australian drinkers have had a taste of what possibly could be ‘Gartbreck-esque’ this year, with the Kornog range – the peated line of Donnay’s French Glann ar Mor distillery – imported into Australia for the first time via Cerbaco.

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