Case studies

If you could bottle it…

Angus MacLeod

Published byAngus MacLeod

If you could bottle it…

WJM’s dedicated team of drink sector specialists provided a full range of legal services to long-standing client Gordon & MacPhail during the development of their new distillery - The Cairn - which lies on the banks of the Spey, in the Cairngorm National Park.

The team was involved throughout the £25 million project that was first discussed with Gordon & MacPhail in principle back in 2014. The relationship between both parties was already well established, dating back to 1992.
Colleagues in our Glasgow office took on the initial advisory work before our Inverness team took the baton in 2018, when the client took on WJM as their full legal representatives for the entirety of the project.

The Cairn has already made a name for itself as a modern home for the ancient craft of distilling Single Malt Scotch Whisky. The distillery and visitor experience will employ more than 15 people, with visitors being offered a variety of experiences at the idyllic site.

Working alongside the Gordon & MacPhail team and their Project Manager, the team was involved in ongoing discussions with architects, Highland Council representatives, National Park staff, and other community stakeholders. This rigorous stakeholder engagement ensured all the necessary information to provide an extensive Environmental Impact Assessment, Habitats Regulations Appraisal, and hold a satisfying public consultation, was gathered.

The unique setting and ground-up nature of the project also demanded the team help to secure unique contracts such as a water extraction agreement, which is critical to the operation of any distillery.

The team’s work paid off when they became the first in Scotland to have a major planning application approved in the Cairngorm National Park, receiving no objections.

Head of the Inverness office, Angus MacLeod, and commercial property experts Paul Adams and Elisa Miller led the project which required a multitude of specialist knowledge, including commercial property, planning, construction law, procurement, and intellectual property - the latter of which guaranteed the use of brand name “The Cairn” for years to come.

Ewen Mackintosh, MD of Gordon & MacPhail, said: “As our long term legal advisors, we knew that WJM had expertise across the board and we were entirely comfortable entrusting all of our legal needs to one team.

“WJM’s base in Inverness was a huge bonus for us as we wanted representation that really understood the significance and vision of the project as well as the regional nuances, and that could be there on the ground throughout.

“They were there when we were first discussed the possibility of the distillery right through to when first spirit came off the stills, and we hope to have them by our side for many years to come as The Cairn establishes itself within the industry and the community.”

Angus MacLeod, Head of the Inverness office, said: “The Cairn has been a wonderful development to be part of and is a great example of the range of services we offer as a firm, as well as our deep engagement with clients like G&M.

“I am incredibly proud of the team for their exceptional work throughout the development that made it one of the most enjoyable projects of my legal career to date. G&M are a long-established but also very forward-thinking client, and I’m looking forward to working hand-in-glove with Ewen and the team at Gordon & MacPhail again with their next exciting project.”

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