New virtual technology gives R&B Distillers a real sense of space on Raasay.

A meeting on the beautiful island of Raasay on a wild winter’s day in January 2015 was the starting point for a journey that would see the creation of a stunning new Scottish distillery incorporating a mix of distilled spirits technology.

Working with Alasdair Day (co-founder of R&B Distillers) and Olli Blair from ABIR Architects, Martin Smith utilised Allen Associates’ virtual reality system to bring the designs to life, while cooling jackets on the fermenters and a 6-plate column on the spirit still added a novel approach in craft malt distilling.

A coordinated, team driven approach ensured that 32 months on from that initial meeting Allen Associates and distillery managers Chris Anderson and Iain Robertson were ready to get the first spirit off the stills for the official opening on the 16th September 2017.

Raasay Distillery design 8

Raasay Distillery

The Project

As with most distillery projects the initial tasks were to prepare a typical distillery footprint and a distillery mass and energy balance to confirm production capacity and service consumptions.  This was achieved within a few weeks to assist with the planning application and confirming an overall budget for the project which was issued for final project funding.

A common challenge in distillery design is pipework layout, and the Raasay project was no different. To deal with the issue Allen Associates worked closely with LH stainless who prepared a virtual reality 3D model of the distillery. The state-of-the-art technology allowed the design team to review the layout in the virtual reality environment so any issues could be solved prior to the site build. This was particularly important when working with a remote site.

The distillery capacity decided on was a one tonne mash system capable of producing approximately 90,000 laa per year operating at one mash per day, five days. By designing on an 8 hour cycle time and operating 24/7 this production capacity could be increased up to ~375,000 laa per year by simply adding in some additional fermenters.

The washbacks were fitted with cooling jackets which is not typical for smaller distilleries. This allows R&B to experiment with different fermentation temperatures and times which will influence flavour development during fermentation. The still house was designed with a purifier on the wash still and a 6 plate column on the spirit still – both of which can be bypassed or operated depending on the production requirements.

The new distillery was designed to relevant standards and guidance to ensure process safety compliance. The recent DSEAR risk assessment had no recommendations proving the plant was designed as per industry best practice.

Raasay Distillery design vr

Raasay Distillery design build

Raasay Distillery CAD to Build

The Results

  • A close working relationship with the client and the design team led to the creation of a distillery that is traditional but also has some modern tweaks to allow the production of desired spirit styles.
  • An added bonus was bringing the process element of the project under budget, while working with LH Stainless on the virtual reality model allowed layout issues to be resolved prior to site construction.
  • All challenges were overcome and the distillery was up and running as per design, in time for the opening on the 16th September 2017.

For more information on Raasay Distillery: