Kingsbarns Distillery began life as a semi-derelict farm steading – built around 1800 by Thomas Erskine, the ninth Earl of Kellie, as part of East Newhall Farm to service the adjoining Cambo Estate. Its centrepiece is a doocot, made with over 600 neatly formed terracotta nesting boxes which, at the time, would have housed pigeons to supply the laird’s kitchen with meat and eggs.
A three-year restoration project involving specialist architects, engineers, designers and whisky specialists restored this historic building into the beautiful distillery and visitor centre that is now in place today – including the immaculately restored doocot in pride of place.
The distillery has 4 washbacks and 2 stills (wash still 7.5k litres, spirit still 4.5k litres) which have been designed to fit snugly into the low distillery space, using long lyne arms for maximum copper contact. The distillery has a capacity of 34 barrels per week and can produce 200k litres of alcohol per year.
The Kingsbarns team is aiming to make the distillery as green as possible and sustainability is at the heart of production. Wastewater goes through reed beds and is returned clean into the local burn; local farmers use waste as fertiliser, and spent grain is used as cattle feed on neighbouring farms. Nothing is wasted and everything goes back into the local environment to the benefit of local businesses.
Distiller Peter Holroyd has been at the helm of distillation since the very beginning, sharing his passion for whisky and turning the Kingsbarns dream into a reality with the Wemyss family. A native of Glasgow, Peter graduated from the Heriot Watt Brewing and Distilling Course in Edinburgh, working in a number of small breweries before joining the Kingsbarns Team in his first whisky role.
Kingsbarns’ flagship single malt, Dream to Dram, was named Best Scotch Lowlands Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards 2022 and 2020. Balcomie, an exclusively sherry matured single malt whisky, joined the Kingsbarns range in November 2020.
Find out more about Kingsbarns Distillery Manager, Peter Holroyd:
Peter is a vital cog in the Kingsbarns machine, using his passion and expertise to assist in the production of our award winning whiskies such as flagship spirit, Dream to Dram.
How did you get to the stage of making whisky?
Well, I’ve always had a love of food and drink, in fact when I was a wee boy I wanted to be a chef. When I realised you could do a Brewing and Distilling course at university, I jumped at the chance to do it. I studied the Heriot Watt Brewing and Distilling course and then I worked for a couple of breweries making beer before a slight change in tack into making whisky. I joined Kingsbarns in 2014.
What is it about whisky that captivates you?
First and foremost it’s the flavour and aroma of it; whisky is a nostalgic drink, it brings back memories of childhood, people and experiences I’ve had in the past; that’s what makes it quite special for me. It’s also such an iconic product, it’s the drink of Scotland. It’s a mix of so many things; tradition, history, technology, science, and tourism. You can get so many different flavours from so many distilleries which are using the same ingredients, that’s what’s captivating, there’s always so much more to learn about it.
Do you think regionality is still important in whisky?
There is definitely historical significance in the different regions of whisky. Historically it was probably more related to blending and what blenders would use and how they would use different regions to give an accent to a whisky. I think perhaps today it’s maybe a little less relevant, you have some distilleries in the lowlands making peaty whisky, whereas in Islay you can get some whiskies that are a touch floral. So things have been a little bit more mixed up but that’s not to say that location isn’t relevant. I think where a distillery is sited has got to have some bearing on the taste, whether that be from the water source that it’s using, the location of the barley fields or even the microclimate of where these casks are maturing. Remember that wood is breathing the whole time, so I think there’s got to be some significance to the provenance of a product. I know for us at Kingsbarns, that’s certainly something that we’ve been very, very passionate about, when we’ve been striving to drive as much of the locality into the dram as we possibly can.
If you could have a dram with anyone living or in the past throughout history, who would it be?
That’s quite a tough question. I would probably say my grandmother because I never managed to meet her and it would be interesting to hear some stories I reckon, so that’s who I’d have a dram with.
Kingsbarns Dream to Dram can be purchased from us at The Scotch Whisky Experience’s Whisky Shop on The Royal Mile.
Thank you to Kingsbarns Distillery for providing this lovely piece and the images kindly supplied.