Holyrood Distillery

Holyrood Distillery, Scotland, UK

The first working single malt distillery in Edinburgh for almost a century, Holyrood Distillery sits in an historic city centre location.
  • Customer
    Newmake Limited
  • Procurement Route
    Single stage traditional
  • Completion Date
    June 2019
  • Value
    £2.8 million
  • Form Of Contract
    SBCC with quantities, Scotland 2011 edition with SOA
  • Project Manager
  • Structural Engineer
  • Area
  • Program Duration
    58 weeks
  • Architect
    7N Architects
  • ME Engineer
Entrance to Holyrood distillery


The first working single malt distillery in Edinburgh for almost a century, Holyrood Distillery sits in an historic city centre location.

This project saw ISG renovate a 184-year-old Category-B Listed Victorian railway building into a top tourist attraction and single malt whisky distillery, creating new jobs and opportunities for public and private events.

The new distillery and visitor experience was delivered in just 58 weeks and is already among the top 20 things to do when visiting Edinburgh.

Staircase in Holyrood distillery

What we did

We created a new 12,379 sq. ft distillery and visitor centre by reconfiguring the existing three-storey building, creating of a full-height single malt distillery plus visitor/event spaces, operations areas and staff amenity to the front elevation.

A steel-framed extension, incorporating the existing traditional stone masonry wall, is now home to the retail shop and visitor reception area. The two-storey building, clad in dark zinc, was designed to mirror the seasoning of the barrels through the whisky production process, with glazed screens creating a framed view of Salisbury Crags from the tasting room.

The stills are powered by a new single-storey plant room to the south, with ISG also carrying out hard and soft landscaping as part of the contract. 

Holyrood tour

Innovative working

Innovative working centred around reacting to changes and tackling unforeseen challenges that an existing building of this age and nature can create, all the while staying on time and within budget.

Early engagement with the client’s process partners enabled us to best understand their requirements, make amends as appropriate and mitigate any risks that could cause delays or aborted design time. An example of this was the steelwork installation that supports and surrounds the stills, which was installed in stages to ensure the best possible outcome as quickly as possible.

Guests awaiting guided tour around Holyrood Distillery

Working in the community

Neighbours were engaged throughout the design and construction process due to the long-term nature of the distillery’s tenure on the site. This was done through meetings, workshops and regular newsletter updates, as well as the development of a pop-up shop next to the site – a space that accommodated an information centre, encouraged regular and open conversations and was the location for informal gin-tasting sessions.

The distilling process includes some inevitable impact on its surroundings, and so the design was considered with city planners so that any impact on neighbours was minimised through the careful position and specification of distillery plant, alongside noise and odour attenuation equipment.

In addition to this, access to the area surrounding the distillery remains open with no gates or restrictions on public access to the courtyard and pre-existing garden area, despite the area’s new use. The ambition is that these spaces can be used by the community in future, and there are plans to use the courtyard for markets and events, bringing a new lease of life to this area of the city. 
Visitors sat listening to the distillery tour

Social and economic impact

By upgrading and conserving this Category-B listed building, its future has been cemented for generations to come.

Now drawing in hundreds of visitors every week, this economically sustainable, long term use of a disused site is the biggest notable impact on the local economy.

The distillery is now included on key city tours and has become a very popular place to visit, already amongst the top 20 “things to do in Edinburgh” (and rising) on Trip Advisor in just two months.

The impressive bar, with floor to ceiling views of Holyrood Park, provides a gathering place for private events and functions, with other large spaces able to be converted to event spaces. Monthly public events such as distiller master classes, tastings and quiz nights are also on offer. The facility has also just won its first product award, scooping gold for its Auld Tam gin at the Scottish Gin Awards 2019 in October.

On a practical level, since opening the distillery has created 35 new full time and two new part time jobs for the city, including highly skilled and technical roles that had not been seen in Edinburgh for decades.

The mechanical and electrical and zinc cladding contractors also employed an apprentice each on the project.

“We were aware of ISG’s extensive experience in the whisky industry and couldn’t have found a better partner for the delivery of our new venture in Edinburgh. We believe Holyrood’s progressive approach to playing with flavours, ingredients, distilling processes and maturation will set it apart.”

Rob Carpenter, co-founder of Holyrood Distillery