top of page


Distillery Logo

Image Credit: Whisky Magazine



Phil & Simon Thompson

Phil & Simon Thompson


Barrel Head


Barrel Head

head whisky maker(s)

Barrel Head


Barrel Head

Year Founded

Barrel Head


Dornoch Distillery, located on the grounds of the historic Dornoch Castle in Sutherland, Scotland, has a unique history and approach to whisky production. Originally built in 2016 by brothers Phil and Simon Thompson, who are passionate whisky enthusiasts, the distillery is one of Scotland's smallest, capable of producing only 25,000 liters of spirit annually. Dornoch Castle itself has been a hotel since 1947 and became a renowned whisky destination. In 2000, it was acquired by Colin and Ros Thompson, who ran the family business. Under their ownership, the hotel gained a reputation as a whisky-focused establishment. The Thompson brothers, while running the hotel's bar, started bottling their own whisky, using casks they purchased.

In 2015, the brothers received permission to convert a 147-year-old fire station on the castle grounds into a distillery. The small 47-square-meter space presented a challenge in fitting the necessary equipment for distillation. Phil and Simon Thompson operate the distillery by hand, combining traditional methods with those from the 1940s-60s. Dornoch's whisky-making process emphasizes flavor over yield. They use organic heritage barley varieties like Plumage Archer and Maris Otter, which are more expensive to grow but yield intense flavors. The fermentation process is notably long, lasting up to 216 hours, thanks to chosen yeast strains with slower conversion rates. This results in a fruity and complex flavor profile.

The distillery's equipment includes a 300kg mash tun and seven oak washbacks. The small stills, imported from Portugal, consist of a wash still with a 1,000-liter capacity and a spirit still with a 600-liter capacity. They are heated using direct gas fire or internal steam coils. Dornoch sources its water from the local mains, which passes through a ceramic bead filter before use. The whisky matures in insulated shipping containers, offering a unique approach to maturation.

-Written (Mostly) by Robots-

bottom of page