Toulvaddie Distillery is Set to Become the First Scotch Malt Whisky Distillery to be Founded by a Woman in Almost 200 Years – Scotch Whisky News


Toulvaddie Distillery is set to become the first Scotch Malt Whisky Distillery to be founded by a woman in almost 200 Years. 

In an industry which has been around for centuries it can be difficult to start something new which stands out from the crowd, however Heather Nelson is aiming to do just that. On an old naval air field in Ross-shire, Highlands of Scotland, Toulvaddie Distillery will be the first Scotch whisky distillery to be founded by a woman in almost 200 years, and the only one to be founded solely by a woman.

Toulvaddie Distillery will be a micro whisky distillery with the capacity to produce around 30,000 litres of alcohol per annum. The stills are a similar size and shape to those used by the whisky “smugglers” in days gone by. This size enables the whole process to be hands on and this is the element that appeals to Heather.

She explains-

“It’s great to see so many distilleries being built just now. However these are by men or are also producing gin as a way of making ends meet until the whisky has aged. I want to build a distillery which has its focus on a quality malt spirit resulting in a whisky I can be proud of. Due to fact that whisky needs time, and to ensure that production can continue, some year 1 casks are available to purchase. There is also a founders club which will receive exclusive bottlings which will never go on general sale from the distillery. I will also be releasing a spirit which has a much shorter maturation time which will tie into the history of the site.”

Women have always been involved in the production of whisky. From the farmer’s wives running the illicit stills after the Union between Scotland and England of 1707 up to the current distillery company CEOs, however Heather’s aim to start a distillery is not because she is a woman, it’s all about the creative process and the final product.

“People always ask – “why do you love whisky?” Well, why does anyone love whisky. It’s the complexity of the flavours, the sheer warmth it yields, and the fact that it just tastes good! The fact there are only three ingredients, but so many different tasting whiskies is what really got me thinking about what makes them different. Being the one who influences those flavours appealed to me and that’s when I started to look into the process in more depth. Yet at this point, being able to start my own distillery was just a dream, but the more I studied the stronger was my desire to actually make my own spirit, and have been working on turning that dream into reality ever since.”

The distillery is to be built on the site of an old Royal Navy Airbase where Navy bomber pilots trained on how to land on the decks of aircraft carriers. Incorporating the site history into the distillery is also important to Heather. “Much of the base has been returned to farmland and most of the buildings knocked down after it was no longer needed by the Navy. I want the distillery to retain some of that history and the spirit of the men and women who worked there and are currently in talks with the Fleet Air Arm Museum and the National Museum of the Royal Navy about doing just that.”

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HMS Owl, Fearn is the Royal Naval Air Service Base where the distillery is to be built. Once an RAF Airfield and then taken over by the Royal Navy for torpedo bomber training.

The distillery will be built on a section of one of the now disused runways.

There are 100 Year 1 casks released for sale and a limited number of founding memberships and these will help the continuation of the distillery in the time waiting for the whisky to mature and are available to purchase now via the website.

There will be limited New Spirit bottlings available and there will also be a short maturation spirit commemorating the history of the site.

Heather Nelson, 37, who lives in Tain, Ross-shire, set up Toulvaddie Distillery Ltd in November 2015 and has received Approval in Principle from the HMRC for the distillation licence.

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