FGS was commissioned to design, manufacture and install the glass façade for the brand new visitor experience at The Macallan Distillery in Speyside.
Whisky is a mainstay of the Scottish economy, and Speyside is arguably the heart and soul of that industry. In 2012 the Edrington Group, owners of The Macallan whisky distillery in Speyside, commissioned an iconic new distillery and visitor experience which would reveal the production processes and welcome visitors while remaining sensitive to the beautiful surrounding countryside. The resulting £140m project, which spans 14,800m2 and is located adjacent to The Macallan’s existing distillery, brings increased production capacity to the site as well as allowing for easy expansion in future years.
Located between The Macallan’s familiar brick-red warehouses and the River Spey, and to the east of the existing site, the new distillery’s layout pays homage to Scotland’s ancient turf-roofed earthworks. Comprising five circular structures that will form the distillery’s production rooms, arguably the most distinctive feature of the new site is its rolling grass roof set over a sustainable Glulam timber structure: the building is set directly into the landscape so that the ground rises to cover the distillery. With stunning views across the rolling parkland of the Macallan estate, the project aims to celebrate The Macallan’s whisky-making process as well as the landscape that inspired it. Design work began in 2012, with completion of the distillery occurring in May 2018.
Brought to the project by main contractors Robertson Construction, FGS was commissioned to design, manufacture and install The Macallan distillery’s new glass façade. This was a project which brought with it a unique set of challenges, which led FGS’ Contracting and Façade Design & Supply divisions to collaborate at the tender stage to provide the ideal specification for architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. This meant that FGS’ design was well supported technically, allowing the specification to be fulfilled with little difficulty.
The roof of the new distillery is one of the most complicated timber structures in the world, comprising 1,800 single beams, 2,500 different roof elements, and 380,000 individual components, almost none of which are equal or the same. Additionally, the Glulam roof structure was expected to provide up to a possible 60mm downward deflection and 38mm outward deflection, so FGS had to ensure that the main façade screen could accept this level of movement. Solar control was also a high priority for the project: it was important that the building’s temperature should remain as consistent as possible to ensure comfort, energy efficiency, and reliable conditions for distillation.
For the main façade, FGS installed 59mm thick units of laminated heat strengthened safety glass (approximately 3m wide x 3.5-4.5m high), structurally bonded to structural fins made from 33mm thick laminated toughened glass. To combat movement and deflection in the glass caused by the Glulam roof structure, FGS had to introduce a pin joint to the base of the glass fin to limit the outward movement.
To insulate the glass units and limit heat exchange, the glass was retained in a thermally broken channel at its base, which was designed especially for the project by FGS and extruded by SAPA. This channel enabled the glazing to function efficiently as well as aesthetically, allowing the installation of glass units which span continuously from the floor slab to first floor level whilst providing a contained thermally broken solution throughout. The façade glass is also retained in channel at its head; however, to allow it to accommodate the anticipated deflection of the roof, the channel was not fixed directly to the Glulam structure.
In addition to the thermally broken channels, Tremco’s range of polyurethane insulating foam tape was used around the head detail of the glass units. These products were specified by FGS as they would accommodate any movement within the glazing head, combating the expected deflection imposed by the Glulam roof structure and providing a thermal break to reduce heat transfer.
Arguably the distillery’s most striking glazed feature is the Cave Privee, a stunning 3m-high curved glass viewing deck and function room located in the visitor area. This was created using 41mm toughened double glazed glass units, both straight and curved, comprising 10mm panes of Securit Planibel for the outer and 10mm Securit Planiclear for the inner pane. The units were then glazed into steel channels at the head and base, and direct fixed to concrete slabs.
The building’s external doors were supplied by Glass Aftercare: these comprise structurally bonded glass which links the doors to the main façade and internal gridline F screen whilst allowing movement capability and accommodating a wide range of service temperatures.
The glazing installation at The Macallan distillery was completed in October 2017, and the development reached full completion in May 2018.
FGS senior project manager, David Bennie, was enthusiastic about the project: “This was a fantastic project for FGS to be involved in. With a range of complex challenges to overcome – not least in creating a specification that would accommodate the large amount of deflection caused by the grass roof – having FGS’ Contracting and Façade Design & Supply teams collaborate on the project ensured that every decision we made was supported with a wealth of technical expertise.
“The Macallan distillery and visitor experience are a seamless feature of the local landscape, demonstrating how the natural and the man-made can complement each other. We’re proud to have contributed to such a unique project.”
Graham Hutcheon, group operations director at the distillery’s parent company Edrington, said: “The successful construction of this exciting new distillery and visitor experience has been made possible through hard work, commitment, innovation and collaboration driven by our team. Our partners… have been with us on every step of the journey and the success of the project has been due to their dedication, professionalism and unwavering commitment to excellence.”
Bill Robertson, founder and executive director of Robertson Construction, agrees: “This once-in-a-lifetime project is one that Robertson has been honoured to be part of. The complexity of the construction work required a huge effort from various teams within our business, and their passion and dedication for the project is clear when you see the completed distillery and visitor experience.”