The Spey Snug: Sunderland to get its first whisky snug as Sheepfolds transformation forges ahead with addition of Speyside Distillers

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Sunderland is set to get its first whisky snug in 2023 as the transformation of the Sheepfolds stableblock forges ahead.

Speyside Distillers, an artisan distillery in Scotland’s Cairngorm Mountains, is the latest in a long and impressive line-up of businesses taking space in the fast-transforming Grade II-listed venue in Sheepfolds Industrial Estate.

The Spey Snug – a whisky lounge, that will be decorated with rich heavy fabrics, a moody colour palette and bespoke leather furniture, telling the story of Speyside’s heritage – will serve up Speyside’s award-winning single malts, alongside its juniper enhanced gin and a range of cigars, when it opens its doors in 2023.

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The Snug, set in one of eight distinct spaces within The Sheepfolds’ hotly-anticipated new leisure venue, is the fourth business to be announced, and will take up a cosy space close to the venue’s stage, providing an intimate space for people to meet and raise a glass.

The latest trader has been announced for SheepfoldsThe latest trader has been announced for Sheepfolds
The latest trader has been announced for Sheepfolds

Speyside Distillers is based in an 18th Century converted mill, drawing its water from the Spey River tributary using an old mill lade that has been powering the building for generations. It is run by John Harvey McDonough, who has long-running connections with Sunderland having once lived in Pallion.

John said: “We are thrilled to be bringing Spey Snug to Sheepfolds in Sunderland, working with the BDN team. Having lived in Sunderland previously, it is wonderful to come back and be part of a venue that will be a stunning addition for people living and visiting the city.”

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The venue plans to hold whisky and cigar tasting evenings and will also be available for private hire for people looking to host an event or celebration. Speyside Distillery is also looking to produce a special Sheepfolds Single Malt.

Joanna and John Harvey McDonough with Richard Marsden from BDN at SheepfoldsJoanna and John Harvey McDonough with Richard Marsden from BDN at Sheepfolds
Joanna and John Harvey McDonough with Richard Marsden from BDN at Sheepfolds

“This is a really special venue with such heritage. It was an opportunity we just couldn’t pass by. And to be able to develop a new product that will give this venue something really unique to offer to its customers is just fantastic,” John added.

The venue will also house some of John’s wife’s artwork. Joanna’s work feature on bottles of Spey whisky produced by the distillery.

The venue will complement an exciting line-up of occupiers moving into the new leisure hub that is taking shape on Sunderland city centre’s northern riverside, in the shadow of the Stadium of Light.

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Earlier this month, RESINN – a concept coffee shop – was announced as the third occupier of the former stables building, alongside Zinc, a new restaurant from the team behind Route, a Michelin Guide restaurant in Newcastle that will serve up seasonal plates and wines from a casual bistro space; and a new eatery from TV chef Si King, who will serve up hearty dishes inspired by his travels around the world, has also been announced.

The transformation of the former stableblock in Sheepfolds Industrial Estate is forging aheadThe transformation of the former stableblock in Sheepfolds Industrial Estate is forging ahead
The transformation of the former stableblock in Sheepfolds Industrial Estate is forging ahead

The venue is expected to open by the end of 2023.

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Richard Marsden, managing director at BDN, said: “The response to this venue has been fantastic, not only from people in Sunderland, but from businesses that are keen to be part of it and we’re delighted to have Speyside Distillery on board, to bring a really different offer to Sunderland.

“The stables building has such provenance, so working with businesses that have a strong heritage brand is a great fit for us. We can’t wait to work with John and the team to create a really stunning venue for visitors to enjoy.”

Joanna and John Harvey McDonough,Joanna and John Harvey McDonough,
Joanna and John Harvey McDonough,

Planning permission was granted for the building’s transformation in May, paving the way for the stables and surrounding courtyards to be transformed into a vibrant new destination, for food, drinks, events and entertainment. BDN has been supported with its plans for the building by Sunderland City Council.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “The offer at this brilliant new venue just gets stronger and stronger with each announcement, and as a Scotsman with a passion for Sunderland, I am particularly pleased to see Speyside Distillery launch its first Spey Snug outside of Scotland in this wonderful city I am proud to call home.”

"The Sheepfolds area will be connected to the city centre by a new footbridge, providing a pedestrian and cyclist crossing, with the wider area being transformed as part of Sunderland City Council’s Riverside Sunderland plan.

The masterplan includes number of large-scale developments in the city centre, with the ambition of doubling the area’s residential population and increasing employment by 50 per cent.

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