In the words of the legendary Hannibal Smith, leader of the A-Team, a group of crack commandos fighting against the forces of evil on the telly in the 80s - “I love it when a plan comes together” .......

The plan in this particular Scottish episode was to build a vertical whisky distillery, a deeply complex proposition. Complex because you need to be able to move many tonnes of liquid to a great height, in a building built on reclaimed land in constant gale force winds, all the while with hundreds of people moving through the building at all hours. And yet this very hair-brained plan is what came together for the Port of Leith Distillery.

The brains behind this malted monolith are childhood friends Paddy Fletcher and Ian Stirling, an idea that was spawned from their sofa while sharing a flat in Vauxhall, London. Increasingly underwhelmed by their chosen careers in their 20s, they started experimenting with whisky production in their back garden. [While on the 1980s TV theme, we’re thinking Jesse Duke cooking up moonshine in the Dukes of Hazzard].

They both grew up in Edinburgh when the area around Leith was becoming increasingly unloved and run down. The Port of Leith had been an epicentre of Scotch Whisky in years gone by and it only seemed fitting that they bought it back to the Port. Ian and Paddy founded the wine and spirits producer “Muckle Brig” in 2014, on a shoestring with the dream of building a whisky distillery. While the plans for this were still fermenting (sorry!) Muckle Brig became the corporate overlord (Paddy’s words, not ours) for the Port of Leith Distillery, Lind & Lime Gin (also made in Leith) and the Leith Export Company.

Edinburgh punches way above its weight in the size of the city vs the tourist influx every year, and to a man, woman and child, everyone is there with one thing in mind - whisky! To get the traditional Scottish experience, you normally throw in at least one field of heather, a few oak barrels, and a roaring fire in the hearth. And for this you must go to the Highlands.

But these guys always wanted to build something modern and forward-facing. Something which recognised a different kind of heritage in Leith that they could build upon. Everyone in the world thinks Scotch Whisky is old and all about heritage, if you have none of these things you can’t try and invent it, so they flipped it on its head and said, “We will embrace modernity”. They wanted a brand-new building which didn’t look like any other whisky distillery, and it gave them the freedom to design this somewhat ‘ludicrous” tower (again, their words not ours. Actually, we rather love it).

Most distilleries are laid out horizontally as you have huge amounts of liquid moving through the different stages of the whisky making process, so nobody in their right mind does that vertically. But this intrepid pair decided to put the fun stuff at the top, (the bar, the tasting floor), and below it, the manufacturing process. A little like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, you're not sure what floor you're going to next. The 360-degree views from all floors are incredible, overlooking the Port and the North Sea. They thought the money shot would be the view of the Castle, but everyone looks out to the Port and at things they have never seen before.

The team at Port of Leith have turned this council planner’s nightmare (the ‘fun floors’ are sitting upon a potentially explosive production process) into a reality. The amount of
fireproof paint used within the project is incredible due to the nature of the production. When the Zombie Apocalypse comes, head to the Port of Leith shouting “To the Distillery now” as it’s practically bomb-proof.

This year is the first big year of production, and it takes a minimum of 3 years until it can be shared. You heard it here first, so get your name down for a wee dram or two. We for one are fully signed up and cannot wait. Follow the team @portofleithdistillery