Job fears as Mull distillery to close for re­fur­bish­ment

The Oban Times - - NEWS - MARTIN LAING mlaing@oban­

FEARS have been raised that jobs could be lost at Tober­mory Distillery on the Isle of Mull.

Ar­gyll and Bute MSP Michael Rus­sell has writ­ten to the own­ers voic­ing his con­cerns af­ter it was an­nounced this week that the plant is to close for two years.

In a state­ment on Mon­day, South African pro­ducer Dis­tell Group Ltd said it is ‘plan­ning to in­vest in the distillery and its vis­i­tor cen­tre, and will stop pro­duc­tion on Fri­day March 31 for a pe­riod of up to 24 months. How­ever, the vis­i­tor cen­tre will re­main open and con­tinue to wel­come guests and host tours through­out this pe­riod.’

There are cur­rently seven peo­ple em­ployed at the distillery, and a spokes­woman for Dis­tell Group said: ‘A con­sul­ta­tion process has just be­gun with staff and the in­ten­tion is to pro­tect jobs as far as pos­si­ble.’

How­ever, Mr Rus­sell said: ‘ While I wel­come the in­vest­ment, I am con­cerned about the in­di­ca­tion of job losses that is im­plicit in the an­nounce­ment.

‘I am very con­cerned about the po­ten­tial for job losses and I have asked the com­pany to be much clearer about that is­sue and to en­sure that the hard work and loy­alty of its ex­cep­tional work­force is re­warded and sus­tained by in­vest­ment, not threat­ened by it.’

Com­ment­ing on the plans for Tober­mory, Dis­tell’s Euro­pean man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Fraser Thorn­ton, said: ‘ We recog­nise the time dur­ing the re­fur­bish­ment will cre­ate sub­stan­tial change for the distillery team and that is why we have come up with dif­fer­ent op­tions to ac­com­mo­date peo­ple’s per­sonal sit­u­a­tions and con­tinue to fi­nan­cially sup­port them dur­ing this time.

‘ Whisky tourism con­tin­ues to thrive with num­bers across the in­dus­try in­creas­ing on av­er­age by 20 per cent over the past five years. Tober­mory has demon­strated even stronger growth in vis­i­tors, and we want to in­vest in the only distillery on the is­land and con­tinue to en­sure it pro­duces some of the best is­land malts in Scot­land, as well as a truly mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence for vis­i­tors.

‘ We are de­lighted to have a new gen­eral man­ager for malts join­ing us in the com­ing weeks who will pro­vide some fresh im­pe­tus for our malt port­fo­lio gen­er­ally and Tober­mory and Ledaig specif­i­cally. An ex­cit­ing new chap­ter will be re­vealed at the end of this and we want ev­ery­one to con­tinue to be part of this jour­ney.’

The Dis­tell spokes­woman added: ‘ The distillery is very un­usual in that it op­er­ates two pro­duc­tion cy­cles dur­ing the year in or­der to pro­duce both Tober­mory and Ledaig malts.

‘ These are both well-known and re­spected brands in the in­ter­na­tional whisky arena and Dis­tell in­tends to in­vest fur­ther in their fu­ture as pre­mium malts fol­low­ing the up­grade.

‘Sales of Ledaig 10-year- old and 18-year- old will con­tinue, with Tober­mory 10-year- old be­ing avail­able to pur­chase from the vis­i­tor cen­tre. A range of lim­ited edi­tions from both brands will be re­leased over the next two years.’

Tober­mory Distillery will shut down for two years.

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