Scottish distillery designer making waves across the globe

With a centuries old reputation for creating the finest whisky on the planet, it’s perhaps no surprise that more and more international distillery owners are looking to tap into the skills of Scotland’s top spirits businesses.

Scotland’s top spirits businesses

At the heart of this global skills export is Stirling based distillery designer, Allen Associates - Scotland’s largest process and design engineering consultancy for the distilled spirits industry. Working with a team of 17 professional chemical engineers, managing director, Scott Allen, has harnessed this international interest to build a portfolio of clients in 17 countries.

“Scotland’s distillery sector remains at the core of our business but there’s no doubt that our international footprint is growing,” says Scott. “Over the past two years our overseas business has doubled to now account for 20% of turnover, and we only see this increasing in the future.”

In terms of location Allen Associates has not limited itself to one geographic location, with completed projects stretching across the globe.

Scott continues: “When you look at our international client portfolio, there is no doubt the range of projects is quite diverse. We have worked on everything from vat room designs for a distillery in Sweden, a new malt rye whisky distillery in Finland and the expansion of a malt whisky distillery in Australia to the design and commissioning of a vodka production and bottling plant in Vietnam and a malt distillery design in China.

“The United States is also developing into an important market with recent work including the design of a bourbon distillery expansion in New York State, and a process optimisation study for Maker’s Mark in Loretto, Kentucky.”

Leads for new projects can come from the most unusual sources and it was a chance meeting at London Craft Expo that started the ball rolling on a project that would take Allen Associates to the far reaches of Scandinavia.

whisky distillery building

With production starting in 2014, the Kyro distillery Company is a jewel in Finland’s spirits industry, offering the highest quality malt rye whisky to discerning consumers across the world.

Not content to rest on their considerable success, the Kyro team approached Allen Associates to help create a new energy efficient distillery to complement the company’s existing facilities.

An early intervention from the Allen Associates team proved to be key to the future direction of the new distillery project. An initial feasibility study in 2017 quickly clarified the focus of expansion, leading to the decision to construct a new malt rye whisky distillery on Kyro’s existing site.

Over the past two years our overseas business has doubled to now account for 20% of turnover, and we only see this increasing in the future.

Allen Associates Director, Martin Smith, takes up the story: “With the correct business decision made, we started work on detailed design for the new distillery. The remote nature of the site was a real challenge so the team used extensive 3D modelling and VR to keep site time down and ensure that key players and installers were fully aware of the distillery layout prior to the start of install.

“There was also a lack of specialist contractors in the area so we used our contacts to build an experienced, Scottish based team to supply the control and electrics and manufacture of the distillation equipment. We worked with a blend of European suppliers and local Finnish installers to deliver the other parts of the distillery. All to our precise specification to meet the client brief.”

Crucial to the success of the project was the involvement and buy-in from the client to every aspect of the detailed design and construction phases. As a result the new distillery was better aligned to the business objectives of the company. Yields were improved without compromising energy efficiency and process safety, and construction was kept on schedule.

A few thousand kilometres south on the holiday island of Mallorca, entrepreneur, Byron Holland, is someone else who understood the importance of bringing in specialist support. When Byron was looking for high level technical input to his new gin distillery, he looked to Allen Associates for support.

The initial consultation revolved around confirming distillery size, regulatory compliance, layout and utility consumptions to assist in finding a suitable site. Once the initial design work was completed Allen Associates was awarded the package supply contract to specify, procure, install and commission the main elements of the distillery.

distillery design

“It was an interesting project which was enhanced when Byron asked for assistance with recipe development to ensure the gin had influences from the local area,” says Martin Smith. “We had worked with master blender Henric Molin from the Spirit of Hven Distillery on a number of occasions in the past so we introduced them and set to work creating a unique spirit.

Over the years Scott, Martin and the team have built strong ties with distillers worldwide, and nowhere is that bond closer than in Ireland.

In addition to projects at Teeling, Rademon estate and Cooley distilleries, the consultancy was heavily involved in the creation of Tullamore D.E.W.’s new facility in County Offaly – both with the process design of the distillery and the new bottling plant. Utilising their extensive experience and knowledge of 3D modelling and other technologies ensured that it started life as a truly energy efficient distillery.

Scott Allen added: “Ireland has a fantastic distilling heritage and it has been a real privilege working on some of the stalwarts of the Irish whiskey industry. Our 3D modelling has proved hugely effective, not only in The Tullamore D.E.W. distillery but in a host of other international projects, where the location can make it difficult to get on site quickly.

“Our expertise and experience combined with these new technologies is undoubtedly helping to secure more business amongst some of the major international players and also the ever expanding global craft sector. The upward trend in the number of craft distillers is good news for the distilling engineering service sector as each project requires engineering support from a network of associated businesses – with a significant number based in Scotland.”