Owner: Aurorora Brewing Ltd. London

„A consortium of private investors has submitted a planning application with Highland Council to re-open a distillery on the outskirts of Thurso.“ John O‘ Groat Journal.  The planned distillery will be situtated in a new facility at Thurso Henderson Business Park which is near to its original site.

„Building work commenced in the summer of 2012 and in early 2013 casks will once again be filled with the Wolfburn spirit and laid down to mature. The next generation of this single malt whisky is expected to be ready to enjoy in 2016.“  The main investor Harry Taylor originated from Wick. His partner is Andrew Thompson from Glasgow, both live in South Africa.

Production began in January 2013. The first spirit ran on January 19th, 2013.

Wolfburn, Wolf Barn, Wolf Burn, Wulf Burn is one of the lost distilleries of the northern Highlands and Caithness area. It was licenced in 1821 to William Smith & Co and in 1852 to David Smith.

He „...invested heavily in Wolfburn and it quickly became a significant producer of malt whisky – tax records from the early 19th Century show it being the largest distillery in Caithness. In 1826, for example, its annual production was 28,056 “Total Gallons of Proof Siprit” – roughly 125,000 litres.“ see Wolfburn Distillery

Production seemed to have ceased in the middle of the 19th century, however, „The distillery appears on the first Ordnance Survey map of the area, dated 1872, marked as a ruin.“ See www.wikipedia.org.

„A single unroofed building, annotated as Wolfburn Distillery, is depicted on the 1st edition of the OS 6-inch map (Caithness 1876, sheet v). It is not shown on the current edition of the OS 1:10000 map (1985).“  See http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk

Development Manager Stephen Light of Aurora Brewing Ltd. : “After some investigation we discovered that the burn runs alongside Thurso Business Park where there was vacant land available - therefore it was ideal for our plan. We’ve purchased the land from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and we’ve spoken to civil engineers and fabricators in researching how to physically put a distillery on site. All of this is planning ahead and we’ve now submitted drawings and plans from the architects to the Highland Council for its consideration.”

See http://thursotown.co.uk

The building and the means of production are built by Forsyths of Rothes. Wolfburn will be the most northerly distillery on the Scottish mainland. It will produce about 115,000 litres of spirit per year. The water source is the same as that of the 19th century Wolfburn distillery. Shane Fraser former production manager of Glenfarclas Distillery will supervise the production. New Wolfburn Distillery will produce non-peated as well as peated whisky which will be on the market in 2016.

„We will be in full production by the end of Jan. 2013,“  Daniel Smith, Wolfburn Business Development, said: "It is not going to be another Balvenie or Glenfiddich. We think it will appeal to a niche customer."

Production Manager Shane Fraser said in January 2013: „To watch the distillery go from concept to reality has been a truly superb experience. Commissioning went very smoothly indeed -­‐ the equipment performed exactly as expected -­‐ and the first spirit, with a wonderful malty flavour, is already flowing from the stills.”

„Construction of the Wolfburn buildings was carried out by a group of local contractors, with the inner workings being crafted by Forsyths of Rothes, the world-­‐leading distillery fabricators. Building work began in August and the distillery equipment was installed across November and December. The entire project has been successfully completed on schedule and exactly as specified.“

The following latest technical details were kindly given by Daniel Smith of Wolfburn Distillery, January 15th, 2013:

Production water is soft and neutral in pH, but very mineral rich; drawn from Wolf Burn

Cooling water: closed circuit system with acooling tower;

Size of mash tun: maximum grist load is 1.25 metric tonnes, the semi-lauter tun with a copper top

was manufactured by Forsyths of Rothes, Speyside;

Malt supplier: several sources, e.g. Muntons Malt www.muntonsmalt.com

Pot still malt is unpeated; „ We used a lightly peated malt, with ten parts-per-million phenol, and the results have been fantastic." Shane Fraser in September 2014.

Malt bins capacity is 32 tonne malt storage in total; 

Milling: 1 to 1.25 tonnes per mash;

Striking temperature: first water 64 C, second water 78 C, third water unknown

Mashing time and temperatures are not known;

Worts‘ quality is unfiltered; 5,500 litres of wort are fermenting in a 9,500 litre tank

There are three stainless steel washbacks with a capacity of 9,500 litres each, „this is the vessel size; some airspace is needed because of switching the foam, maximum charge capacity is therefore c.7,500 litres of wort.“

Anchor dried yeast is used; 5,5 KG, 5,500 litres of worts

Fermentation times will vary from 55 to 72 hours and occasionally longer;

Alcohol strength of the wash is still unknown;

Wash still charge capacity: 5,500 litres, onion shape, spirit still charge capacity: 3,600 litres,  onion shape with reflux nallheating is by steam coils, manufacturer of the stills is Forsyths of Rothes, Speyside;

Low wines strength: unknown;

Distilling capacity is 125,000 LPA, planned annual production will be around 115,000 LPA;

Character of the new make: „quite light, sweet and malty“  Shane Fraser

A mix of Bourbon and Spanish sherry will be used for maturing and warehousing will be of the dunnage type;

Waste treatment: there is no biomass plant; the draff is being used as cattle feed in Caithness 

Distillery Manager: Shane Fraser (2013)

On October the 23rd, 2013 Wolfburn reported: „Laying down the hundred thousandth litre of alcohol at Wolfburn in a nice big sherry butt. A great achievement by Shane and Iain and a great week for Wolfburn. Big smiles all round.“

In 2013 190.000 litres of alcohol were produced, 7,000 more than forecast. The Wolfburn Team filled about 375,000 bottles like into  811 casks (Bourbon, Sherry). In 2014 another 960 casks were laid down, containing 192,000 litres of Wolfburn spirit.

In 2015 an additional warehouse with a vatting and bottling facility was built on the same site of the distillery, left to the production site.

„After a great deal of consideration, we have decided to do our bottling on site – one of only a tiny handful of Scottish distilleries to do so. Work has begun to install the bottling plant, and we’re also building a new warehouse right next door to the stillhouse, which will provide sufficient laydown and maturation space for years to come.“ September 2014.

The first whisky was bottled on the 12th February 2016.

The Gateway to Distilleries presents also some photos by kind permission and by courtesy of Wolfburn Distillery (2013). The photos are copyright of Wolfburn Distillery only.

Please double-click and thumbnail the photo to open the tour.

Thank you.