An entire brand new whisky distillery is being shipped out to China on Friday from Scotland.
Over 35 tonnes of equipment, including 16 containers and 5 wooden crates, flooring, control valves and pipework, is leaving Buckie, Moray, near Inverness, for the port of Tianjin and will be put together at a facility being built in Ordos, Inner Mongolia.
This is part of a £3m ($4m) "design and build" deal that was signed between Forfar firm Valentine International and China's MengTai Group in 2019.
The project was announced in December 2019 when David Valentine, managing director of Valentine International Business Connections, signed a contract in London to procure the distillery on behalf of the Inner Mongolia MengTai Group, one of the region’s top five companies.
The original plan was to have the new distillery producing its first batch of malt whisky by the end of 2020, but the pandemic slowed this down. The project is now back on track for completion at the end of 2021.
Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, had said in 2019: “This is great news for Scotland and an early win for our new International Trade Partnership programme which our Network operates in partnership with the Scottish Government.
"We are confident of more investors coming to Scotland as a result. It is an example of what can be achieved by forging relationships and adding value and confidence between businesses across the globe.”
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On the latest development, she said: “It is tremendous to see this exciting opportunity come to fruition and showcase the value of forging business relationships with partners across the globe. It demonstrates that Scotland has world renowned industries attractive to investors and, with the right framework, is ready to take advantage of new trading opportunities."
Meanwhile, the facility in Ordos is set to become Inner Mongolia's first whisky distillery when it opens.
The equipment was built by Forsyths, based in Rothes, which is sending a team of five engineers to supervise the assembly, and there is a team in Hong Kong ready to provide back-up and services.
Richard E Forsyth, managing director of Forsyths said: “We are hugely honoured that the chairman of the Inner Mongolia MengTai Group has entrusted Forsyths to deliver this prestigious new distillery.
Chairman of Valentine International and managing director David Valentine said MengTai chairman Ao FengTing came up with the idea, with the plan to create a "globally award-winning whisky".
Valentine specialises in commercial ventures in China. He said: "Scotland is the home of whisky and has the greatest expertise in terms of distillery equipment manufacture, which is why Mr FengTing believes we will deliver a world-beating project for him in Ordos."
As one of Inner Mongolia's largest private firms, MengTai Group's main businesses include coal production and electricity generation. It employs over 4,000 people with total assets of over £3bn.
Valentine International has also signed a separate "strategic agreement" with MengTai to supply whisky in bulk for China.
Valentine chose not to name the whisky distiller in that deal but he said it was a "long-established" firm.