Leven is a distillery like no other. As Diageo’s experimental facility situated within the Leven bottling plant, the distillery has been designed to create any style of spirit Diageo desires.
There are two mills (4-roll and hammer) so it can process both malt and grain (although there is currently no continuous still to progress grain trials through to distillation); a mash tun that can shapeshift from a semi-lauter into a mash conversion vessel; an excessively large heat exchanger to allow solids from grain mashes to flow through with ease and avoid blockages; and stills with interchangeable middle sections which can mimic any one of the company’s 28 other stills. As well as being the only distillery in Scotland to reside within a bottling facility, it is also one of the only licensed distilleries in Scotland without a spirit safe, having received special dispensation for being an experimental site.
Its purpose is to future-proof Diageo’s Scotch whisky business, by finding new flavours and tweaking processes to improve efficiencies. Leven’s distilling team work closely with Diageo’s blenders to experiment with flavours throughout the process, from milling at different settings, playing with different barley varieties, yeasts and heavily roasted malts, and moving cut points. By running its experiments here, Diageo avoids the break in normal production output it would otherwise experience at one of its other distilleries, although some trials are scaled up at select sites.