THE FUTURE OF a Moray distillery as a possible national whisky visitor attraction was the main topic at a meeting between Historic Environment Scotland and Moray MSP Richard Lochhead this week.
Mr Lochhead met with the acting chief executive, David Mitchell, aimed at exploring the “enormous historic and heritage value” of Dallas Dhu in the heartland of scotch whisky.
Following the meeting on Thursday Mr Lochhead said: “I have been raising this issue for several years now. Since my first meetings a few years ago, I welcome the discussions that have since taken place between Historic Environment Scotland and Diageo to bring the distillery back into production – which is something that will not only be unique but bring huge tourism benefits for Forres and Moray.
“However, if we want to make real progress and transform Dallas Dhu into a globally renowned visitor attraction as well as conserve a precious part of our heritage, much more needs to be done and the process needs speeded up.
“To make this happen, it seems to me that it would make sense for Diageo to pass ownership of the site, distilling and water rights and brand to the Scottish Government. That will enable Historic Environment Scotland to properly explore all the options and quickly.
“Otherwise we may face more years of protracted negotiations between the actual owners, Diageo, and guardians of the site Historic Environment Scotland.
“If that were to happen then I am confident that given the buoyancy in the sector a partner could be sought to work with Historic Environment Scotland to make the necessary investment in production facilities and visitor facilities.”
Mr Lochhead added that as a major multi-national company, Diageo gifting Dallas Dhu and associated rights to the nation “would be a powerful signal that the company is willing to give something back to Moray”.
He said: “If we got a position where Dallas Dhu was producing whisky again and also was developed to tell the story of scotch whisky in a modern, interactive way, the distillery would become one of Scotland’s key visitor attractions.
“I will now be contacting Scottish Ministers, Diageo and Historic Environment Scotland’s board of trustees to see if all this can be achieved – and quickly.”