Robertson unveils 'once-in-a-lifetime' Macallan distillery project

Robertson has completed work on a flagship £140 million distillery and visitor experience for The Macallan in Speyside.

Built on the Easter Elchies estate, the new distillery has been unveiled by international premium spirits company Edrington.

Main contractor Robertson worked with 25 contractors to bring the vision for the new distillery and visitor experience to life. Taking the complex and unique architectural design and moulding it to complement an area of outstanding natural beauty, this challenging build saw the firm apply all of its technical skills, innovation and expertise to create a seamless connection to the surrounding countryside.

During construction, up to 400 people specialising in more than 20 different trades were employed on site. Going forward, Robertson’s facilities management business will provide maintenance services at the facility.

It is the first distillery on Speyside to be designed by an internationally acclaimed architecture practice, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, which was selected to lead the project after an international competition.

Edrington is investing £500m in the brand of which the £140m distillery is the centrepiece. This programme increases investment in whisky, warehousing, and particularly in The Macallan’s signature sherry-seasoned oak casks.

The striking piece of contemporary architecture is cut into the slope of the land, taking its cues from ancient Scottish hills and maximising the aesthetic beauty of the building whilst minimising the visual impact on the Speyside landscape, which has been classified as an “Area of Great Landscape Value”.

The undulating timber roof structure is one of the most complicated timber roof structures in the world, comprising 380,000 individual components. Each junction and beam has a specific name and has been tested in over 160 different load conditions while ‘The Swiss Alpine Design code’ has been used to understand the effects of wind, snow and ice on the intricate structure.

The project was announced in 2012 and the build began in December 2014. The first whisky ran through the stills in December last year and the visitor experience will open its doors to the public on 2nd June. It is expected that visitor numbers will double in the first year and continue to rise thereafter.

The new distillery will enable production of The Macallan to increase by a third if required. The new stills were crafted by Scottish coppersmith Forsyths, who have been making the brand’s distinctive, ‘curiously small’ stills for The Macallan since the 1950s.

Natural materials – local stone, timber and the living meadow roof – as well as the landscaping design not only evoke the environment and ingredients of whisky production but also serve to provide an atmospheric journey for the visitor. A number of specialist consultants were appointed to support the interior fit out including Atelier Bruckner, Concept Bars and Modo+.

Bill Robertson, founder and executive chairman, Robertson, said: “This once-in-a-lifetime project is one that Robertson has been honoured to be part of. The complexity of the construction work required a huge effort from various teams within our business, and their passion and dedication for the project is clear when you see the completed distillery and visitor experience.

“Throughout, we have placed great emphasis on understanding The Macallan’s vision for their Speyside home and there has been a real spirit of collaboration between us and all other partners. We congratulate The Macallan and hope visitors to the area enjoy this world class distillery.”

Graham Hutcheon, managing director group operations, Edrington, said: “The successful construction of this exciting new distillery and visitor experience has been made possible through hard work, commitment, innovation and collaboration driven by our team. Our partners Robertson, Forsyths, and Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners have been with us every step of the journey and the success of the project has been due to their dedication, professionalism and unwavering commitment to excellence.”

Graham Stirk, senior partner and lead architect, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, added: “The Macallan estate truly is a special place; a place we have come to love and respect hugely. The vision was always ambitious but this enabled us to challenge our own thinking to create something so dramatic and awe-inspiring. It has been an honour to play our part in shaping the next chapter for The Macallan.”

Key construction fast facts:
Completed £140m distillery and visitor experience for the Macallan
Leading infrastructure company founded in nearby Elgin delivered this complex architectural feat
Collaborated with 25 contractors to bring the vision to life
Took a unique architectural design and moulded it to an area of outstanding beauty
Challenging build that saw Robertson apply ALL of its technical skills, innovation and expertise
400 people employed on site during construction
20 different trades
Robertson FM will provide maintenance services at the facility

Civil engineering
500,000 tonnes of earth excavated
Infrastructure on roads meant The Macallan could maintain business as usual
River Spey proximity, Site of Special Scientific interest (SSI)
Collaborated with agencies to develop bespoke water management system
Efforts ensured there was zero environmental impact on the watercourse
Retained 100% of excavated material on site

Roof structure
Comprises 1,750 timber beams
2,500 cassettes that support the natural meadow roof covering
380,000 individual roof components
12 months of work using parametric modelling software to define complex geometry
Timber elements were manufactured in Austria
Took 5,000 lifts and 4 mobile cranes to install roof structure

20,000m3 of concrete poured from up to 12m high
Single concrete plant and raw materials were sourced for the entire project
Onsite sampling facility to adjust admixtures, monitor quality and finishes

Structural steel
700 tonnes of beams support the distillery roof
Software driven process involved careful modelling to ensure steel integrated with the timber and complex roof geometry
Steel welded by specialist craftsmen who pride themselves on quality of detailing

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