Arbikie is a single estate craft distillery in the east Highlands of Scotland. It produces single malt and rye whiskies, plus vodka and gin, and is a true field to bottle operation. They have already gained a reputation as one of Scotland's most experimental new distilleries. To date, rye whisky has appeared with the owners not planning to release single malt until 2029.
The single malt spirit is produced in a 'coastal Highland style'. Traditionally, this is highly expressive with robust cereals and a hint of saltiness. They have been growing and using different strains of barley and seasonal varieties, so only time will tell for the full flavour profile.
The rye whiskies are described as sweet and spicy with notes of dried fruit, chocolate and ginger present.
Arbikie has an annual capacity of 200,000 litres. This is split between whisky, gin and vodka production.
Rye whisky is made using a recipe of 52% rye, 33% wheat (both unmalted) and 15% malted barley.
The distillery is equipped with a 750kg stainless steel mash tun. The wort (the sugary liquid produced when mashing) is put to one of four stainless steel washbacks. The fermentation time is 96 hours. There is one wash still and one spirit still.
For gin and vodka production, the spirit is run through an additional rectifying column still. The only part of production that does not take place at the distillery is malting, which happens in nearby Montrose.
Arbikie was founded in 2015 by David, Iain and John Stirling. It is located on the 2,100-acre Arbikie Highland Estate, near the village of Inverkeilor. This is owned by the three brothers and sits between the east Highland coastal towns of Arbroath and Montrose. The Stirling family have farmed the estate since 1920 and the distillery is housed in an old cattle shed.
Their goal was to take an innovative approach to producing spirits. Firstly, by growing heritage and seasonal grain varieties on their farmland and secondly by innovating during production. This has seen Arbikie using barley, rye and wheat to distil its spirits and potatoes (also grown on the farm) to make vodka.
The first spirit from the stills was potato vodka in early 2015. Arbikie Gin followed in August 2015. The first Scotch single malt was produced the following month by Master Distiller Kirsty Black. The Stirling brothers' intention is to mature this for a significant time. The aim is to release a range consisting of 14, 18 and 21-year-old whiskies.
The rye whisky has been released. The inaugural bottling was in 2018 - a three-year-old matured in ex-bourbon casks and finished in ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry barrels. It was the first Scottish rye whisky for over a century. In early 2021 the 1794 Highland Rye Scotch was released, matured in virgin American oak casks.