Milestone in bid for major whisky investment HQ in Fife
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The multi-million pound investment has started its route through Fife Council’s planning process, but tomorrow, it passed another milestone as the company took ownership of the site of its proposed development in the historic village.
The land which once was home to Smith Anderson’s St John’s Works and, before that, a linoleum factory, could soon be at the centre of a major operation which already reaches into two Fife towns.
SWI has a bottling plant in Auchtermuchty producing approximately 6000 bottles of whisky per week - the purchase 7.7 hectares at Crompton Road East, Glenrothes was one of the area’s most significant industrial land sales in recent years. It also netted some £850,000 in grants from Scottish Enterprise to help provide premium cask storage facilities along with bottling and additional cask services.
The company has already moved into the former Town House in Falkland to co-ordinate its plans which have been almost a year in the pipeline. It has completed the pre-planning stages, and is now working on a formal application to the local authority.
For Keith Rennie, managing director, the projects sits on his own doorstep, and he is excited about what it entails. The HQ aims to be a centrepiece for learning about, and showcasing, single malt Scotch whisky, and to provide a place of hospitality for worldwide investors in this commodity.
It will be designed to house the worldwide administrative functions of the company itself,and SWI said the intention was that the site “will have stature and status with global appeal.”
The plans include relocating the world-famous Valentino Zagatti whisky collection - one of the largest in the world - from the Netherlands to a museum within the building. It comprises more than 3000 bottles, and close to 300 whisky brands, most of which are extremely rare.
Factor in hospitality, offices, some retail and a small number of cottages for investors, visitors and staff, and you begin to get a sense of the scale of the project which will sit on a 10-acre site that sits above Falkland - but will only utilise 40 per cent of the land.
“Whisky is coming home,” said Mr Rennie. “This is where it started up at Lindores Distillery, the site of the first recorded whisky distillation in Scotland, with King James IV consuming it in Falkland Palace.
“This is a great site. It spoke to what we wanted and were looking for. It is the right size in the right location. The main building will be our global headquarters. It means that as a leading Scotch whisky investment company, we will have a significant base here as well - our direction of travel is from the Netherlands to Scotland.”
Currently based in Sassenheim, about 33km from Amsterdam, SWI is an international asset management company which helps investors with their portfolios, in which it manages whisky not for consumption, but for investment - and it is a lucrative, global market. Staff from the Netherlands have already started to make frequent visits to Fife as plans for the development progress.
Phase one is to get the maturation warehouses in Glenrothes - a centre of excellence for the support of the cask investment and storage market that will allow Scotch to age on site – launched by October, with a planning application for the Falkland centre expected to come by the end of the year.
“We are hoping for approval by next summer, and with the potential to start late 2024, “ said Mr Rennie.
Taking ownership of the site last week was a key moment, and a poignant one for the family which operated from there between 1968 and 2015 before swapping its five-storey factory for state of the art facilities at Mitchelston Industrial Estate in Kirkcaldy.
“It has been a long time coming, and moving on to the site was an important landmark,” said Mr Rennie. It was a very special moment for us and Smith Anderson. We have been working with them for two years, and got to know them well. They are great people and this is a milestone for everyone concerned.”
The £10m phase one at Glenrothes is almost done with four maturation warehouses and plans to expand to 27 which could hold some 200,000 casks.
“We have a lot going on, but Fife Council have been very supportive in Glenrothes and Falkland, and Scottish Enterprise have been fantastic to work with,” said Mr Rennie who was co-owner of the Auchtermuchty Bond which was sold to SWI, and he then switched from working in manufacturing and project management to working in whisky investment.
He joined a company launched in 2007 by Michel Kappen who went from giving talks and tastings on whisky to creating the global investment company.
“He is passionate about whisky and Scotland and he had a dream, to see whisky as an investment and to do it here,” said Mr Rennie.
That dream is now underway, with the project creating jobs in all three towns, and bringing the Zagatti collection to a museum within the building.
A collection which once filled Mr Zagatti’s family home in Lugo di Ravenna from floor to ceiling could find its permanent home in an ancient heart of Fife. Whisky is indeed coming home, and at its heart is a bottle of Scotch from 1843.