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Distillery Visit: The Borders Distillery guided by John Fordyce

2024.01.25 / 最終更新日:2024.02.01

The absence of a whisky distillery in the Scottish border since 1837 has been resolved. The Borders Distillery opened in Hawick in 2018, bringing whisky production back to the region. In accordance with the tradition of Hawick, a manufacturing hub set in the rural Borders area, The Borders Distillery is rapidly developing its legacy as a Scotch whisky maker.

Check out other articles on The Borders Distillery!

About The Borders Distillery

What is The Borders Distillery?

Formally known as, The Three Stills company, The Borders Distillery was founded by a group of Scotch whisky veterans, John Fordyce, Tim Carton, Tony Roberts, and George Tait. In 2015, they bought the abandoned electric engineering factory in Hawick, one of the largest town in the Scottish Borders, and started the rejuvenation process. The idea of this project was to restore and repurpose the pre-existing building as they brought the whisky industry back to the Borders area.

Considering the embedded carbon emission, the owners made a moral decision not to build a brand-new building, resulting in an environmentally sustainable construction process. One of the founders, John, says that he cares about environmental sustainability for the future because, ultimately, when you consider how time-consuming the whisky production process is, this decision indirectly influences the distillery’s future customer. This remarkable approach won the RIAS Conservation and Climate Change Award 2019 and the EAA Architectural Awards 2019 – Regeneration/Conservation Award.

The Borders Distillery

Why building the distillery in Borders?

As its popularity among tweeds and cashmere shows, Hawick has thrived as one of the most prominent industrial town within the Scottish Borders. Despite producing unique Scottish items and having distinctive Scottish culture and tradition, this region has lacked whisky production for over 180 years.

When John and his colleagues searched for a place to build the distillery, Hawick stood out due to its industrialized culture and abandoned electricity factory, which seemed to suit the distillery perfectly. Instead of building a new facility from scratch, concerned about the embedded carbon emission, they realized it made more sense to utilize pre-existing buildings. Therefore, they rejuvenated this factory into a distillery, all while keeping the outer look of the facility to remain the same as much as possible.

Promotion Video

For a quick overview of The Borders Distillery, check out their official video (Link is cited from The Borders Distillery ).

Basic Information

Distillery The Borders Distillery
Founders John Fordyce, Tim Carton, Tony Roberts, and George Tait
Location The Borders Distillery, Hawick, Scottish Borders, TD9 7AQ, United Kingdom
Year of Establishment 2018
Website The Borders Distillery

Access

Situated right between Edinburgh and Newcastle, The Borders Distillery is popular with British people and other European people who visit Newcastle via ferry.

If you are coming from Edinburgh, the nearest large train station from the distillery would be Galashiels, a 50 minutes train ride from Edinburgh station. From there, you can access the distillery via bus, which would take approximately 35 minutes. Or if you prefer the more straightforward yet longer way, you could catch the bus from the South Bridge bus stop (2 minutes walk from the Edinburgh station) and patiently ride the bus for more than 2 hours.

From Newcastle, you would have fewer public transit options. However, it is only an hour and a half car ride from Newcastle, so it will be a perfect town to stop by if you are heading to Edinburgh from Newcastle.

The Borders Distiller’s Products

Shop area is open whole year, even during the closing season of the distillery

Two Types of Blended Scotch Whisky

It has only been five years since The Borders Distillery started its original single malt whisky creation journey; hence, we have yet to see the final product. While the world awaits their single malt whisky, two of their Blended Scotch whisky would be the best way to experience the craftsmanship embodied in the bottle.

Lower East Side: Matured in American Oak casks, the whisky has vanilla, almond, and honey notes, with just a hint of smoke.
Clan Fraser Whisky: This blend of the finest Single Malt and grain whiskies has honey and butter notes on the nose, enhanced with fruity hints of raisin and fig wrapped in touches of spice.

Workshop Series

There are three: WS:00 NEW MAKE SPIRIT, WS:01 BORDERS MALT & RYE, and WS:02 THE LONG & SHORT OF IT. They treat this series of experimental crafts as a “stepping stone” that enhances their creativity and ultimately leads to the development of their own single malt whisky.

For more information, click here.

Inside The Borders Distillery

John Fordyce

One of the founders and the managing director of The Borders Distillery. With a background in the textile and wine industry, he has rich experiences in the manufacturing industry. As an ex-winemaker in charge of wine blending and vineyard management, John utilizes wine knowledge and implements it into whisky production. This is embodied in their latest workshop series, “The Long and Short of It,” which highlights the importance of fermentation within whisky making.

John kindly showed us around the distillery!

Lobby

John:
This is a 1 to 50 scale model of the distillery made by a Portuguese architecture. This facility is an old building from 1888, which was ruined. So we bought it, and we restored it. We put a hundred years of life back into the structure, and everything is designed to be completely sustainable.

50 to 1 scale model of the distillery

John:
Everything is placed very close to each other. Therefore, we use little energy. The glass ceiling is meant to provide us enough lighting, that we don’t need electric light. And we even have a system of mechanical ventilation with no electricity, utilizing differential air pressure.

Glass ceiling for better lighting and less electricity useage

Distillery Tour

As a fully operating distillery, visitors could actually see and take photos of the liquor production, complemented very well by the beautiful natural lighting. A tour at The Borders Distillery is guided by the actual distillers themselves, offering professional and personal insights.

Tour info

About  Discover the spirit of the Borders on a tour of our award-winning distillery, the first Scotch whisky distillery in the Scottish Borders since 1837, before enjoying a complimentary dram in our Distillery bar.
Time Needed An hour or two
Cost £20
Open on Monday-Saturday 11am, 1pm and 3pm (Closed now due to Winter season. Re-opening on April 1st, 2024)
Booking From Here, or walk-ins are welcomed if spots were available. 

Distillery Visit

Ingredients

John:
Our main ingredients, barley, is from here and only grown within the Borders area. So it comes from the field, goes to the malting plant, and comes back here. Then, all of the distillery co-products or the spent grain and all the products from the distillery are used by local farms, too. So, we have just about zero waste, and everything is contained within our local farming community.

Our grist is very standard, 9% flour, 71% grits, and 20% husk.

John explaining about the grist

Mashing

John:
We use a stainless steel 5 ton mash tun here. The mash tun is a huge tank, usually made with either stainless steel or wood, where the milled barleys are mixed with hot water to create a liquid called wort, which would be a base liquid for whisky or beer. Reason why we use stainless steel here is because steel is very robust and easy to clean. Therefore, it has efficiency advantages as well as less water waste.

Stainless steel Mash tun

Fermentation

John:
We have eight washbacks here. Washbacks are used in the fermentation stage of the whisky production, and at this distillery, we ferment the wort for usually around 56-72 hours. However, for our latest Workshop Series, “The Long and Short of It,” the most extended fermentation lasted 150 hours because we wanted to experiment with fermentation length. We believe that fermentation is the fundamental stage where the flavor of the whisky gets determined.

Distillation

Whisky Production

John:
We have four pot stills made by Forsyths for whisky production, lined up here under the beautiful sunlight from this glass ceiling. With its beautiful curves and boil balls installed inside, our liquid is provided with maximum copper contact, resulting in a smoother mouthfeel. This distillery, as a whole, is capable of producing 1.6 million liters of liquor annually.

Pot stills for whisky production

Gin & Vodka Production

John:
This is a special type of still called the Carter Head still, which is extremely unusual. Carter Head still is a hybrid of a pot and a column still. It has a pot on the bottom, and the inside is filled with a thing called sacrificial copper. So, in a regular pot still, or some call it an Alembic still, the processing idea is per batches, you start and finish, and start and finish. In the 1830s, continuous still was newly invented, where you never stop as long as your ingredients are going in the top and your energy on the bottom.

Carter Head still

John:
What happens is that we boil up the new make spirits, and they turn into vapor. It moves up the column, hits the pipe filled with cool water, and comes back down. Meanwhile, when we put ethanol in touch with copper, it cleans up the vapor and the spirit. We try to make the spirit as clean as it can get. From there, we can capture that steam in the basket and either condense it with junipers and spices or activated charcoals. As a result, we can create Gin or Vodka.

Ingredients for the Gin

Maturation

John:
Warehouses are far away nowadays because of the environment. So the distillery is in one place, and the warehouses are in another, and it’s always like that now.

In terms of casks almost use entirely bourbon barrels and never use peated or sherry because everyone is going crazy about it, and I tend to go against it.

Work Shop

John:
That building is where casks are supposed to get bottled, but it is closed for now. We are planning to take off the roof and redevelop the whole place.

At Last

Driven by the passion to bring Scotch whisky production to the Scottish borders, John and his colleagues have been devoted to creating truly one and only distillery with an exceptionally ethical and modern approach. While they take reasonable time and conscious preparation to develop their single malt whisky, The Borders Distillery tirelessly entertains its fans with its creativity and craftsmanship through their Workshop Series. Their relentless effort to sustainable whisky production in terms of a greener environment and local employment is why The Borders Distillery is loved so much by the town of Hawick.
Not only the locals of the Borders region but also fans worldwide are excitedly awaiting the single malt.

Check out other articles on The Borders Distillery!

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