The first whisky distillery on the Outer Hebridean island of Harris plans to start production in 2014 with the “super premium” Hearach single malt.

Hearach will be the launch product for Isle of Harris Distillers, which aims to produce between 200,000 and 300,000 bottles a year, the company's MD Simon Erlanger told just-drinks today (21 December). The US and Japan will be the initial target overseas markets for the company, once the whisky has matured. 

Erlanger will invest GBP10m (US$16.2m) from private equity in the company, including a visitors centre at its Tarbet site.

“These things take a long time to get off the ground, but it is gathering momentum”, said Erlanger, who before the Harris project helped relaunch the Ardbeg distillery for Glenmorangie.

More private-equity money needs to be sourced, Erlanger said, but he hopes to start producing the first bottles by the end of 2014. 

“It's a little premature considering we won't be selling anything until 2018 at the earliest, but what I would imagine happening is that we would start with the more mature whisky markets,” he said.

“What's quite exciting though is that by the time we get to market that there will be developed markets that are now only emerging.”

Isle of Harris will employ 20 people on the island, representing about 5% of Harris' workforce. All operations except barley production will take place in Harris, however, Erlanger said he is testing barley growing on the island.

To market the distillery, Erlanger said he will work closely with the Harris Tweed authorities. 

Earlier this year, Remy Cointreau paid $90m for Isley Scotch maker Bruichladdich.