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Scotland’s First Vertical Whiskey Distillery Opens to Visitors

by Ron Bernthal

Jan 30, 2024

© Sam Christie


Friends Paddy Fletcher and Ian Stirling grew up together in Edinburgh before sharing a flat in London and developing a shared passion for whiskey. While they took different career paths (Paddy an accountant and Ian a wine merchant), the dream of having their own distillery in their hometown was never forgotten. In 2014, they set up their own company, Muckle Brig, to raise money with investors in order to build Port of Leith Distillery, which started construction in 2020.


© Sam Christie

“Working closely with our client, the Port of Leith Distillery, to design Scotland’s first vertical distillery has been a hugely enjoyable experience for us,” said Glasgow-based architecture firm ThreeSixty about its project designing a vertical whiskey distillery in Leith, one of Edinburgh’s most interesting neighborhoods.

Leith is a vibrant and eclectic neighborhood located on the outskirts of Edinburgh’s city center, known for its arts and culture scene, as well as its diverse range of restaurants and bars along Leith Walk.

The design of the completed building reflects the company’s vision to present an exciting, modern face for the Scotch whiskey industry, encompassing core values of innovation, education and openness.


© Sam Christie

“Building a distillery of our own has been an ambition of Paddy Fletcher (Co-Founder and CEO) and myself for over ten years, so to see the project finally come to fruition is a surreal moment for us,” said Ian Stirling. “We never set out to build a vertical distillery, the shape and size of the building is a product of the tiny site we were able to secure.”

Fletcher and Stirling were able to wedge the distillery tower into Edinburgh’s historic harbor to make the building as accessible as possible to people who love whiskey. They spent a lot of time thinking about how to make Port of Leith’s public tour as special as they could, and now look forward to “welcoming fans across the globe to a whisky experience like no other.”

The nine-story, 131-foot-high Port of Leith Distillery building demands a gravity-led whisky production process which, in turn, provides visitors with a distillery experience unlike any other. From the “mashtun” on the fifth floor to the “washbacks” on the third, visitors follow the new whiskey all the way to the gleaming copper stills at ground level.


© Sam Christie

From the rooftop mezzanine bar and restaurant, visitors are able to enjoy cocktails and small plates from an expansive tasting menu, as well as the unique view of Edinburgh to the west and across Firth of Forth to Fife in the east.

The Port of Leith Distillery opened for visitors in October 2023, and has become a major new landmark for the city and a welcoming beacon for the many cruise ships that now dock in Leith.


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