CHIVAS Brothers has unveiled plans to further expand its “world class” bottling site in Dumbarton, described as the “backbone” of the Scotch whisky giant’s operations in Scotland.

The distiller, which bottles prestigious brands such as Chivas Regal, Ballantine’s, and Royal Salute at Kilmalid, has begun work on a comprehensive remodelling of the site that will improve safety for staff and visitors and upgrade its surrounding land, protecting access to pathways for the local community along the River Leven.

Details were revealed as the company, owned by Paris-based Pernod Ricard, outlined its hopes for growing whisky sales in the lucrative Indian market. It already has strong presence in the country through its Pernod Ricard India subsidiary, which has been bottling its 100 Pipers brand for some years and recently began bottling Ballantine’s Finest.

Local MP Jackie Baillie said the Kilmalid project “cements” the commitment of Chivas to Kilmalid, where it now employs 1,100 people following the addition of nearly 200 permanent operator roles in the last 18 months.

The site is effectively home to three factories which have been built at various stages over the last three decades, in 1980, 2001, and 2020, and the upgrade will involve the segregation of HGV and forklift truck traffic. A new car park has already been built in the north of the site to provide a safer and more convenient access for employees and visitors via a new entrance on Stirling Road, while the next stage will focus on the car park to the south, which will be re-laid and expanded.

Transport links will also be improved to give people more choice on how they access to the site, Chivas said. Public access footpaths will be built, electric vehicle charging points will be installed, and cycle lanes and cycle storage facilities will be added. Future works will include habitat rehabilitation and improved public access from Dumbarton alongside the Leven, which runs alongside the campus.

Its planning permission for the project includes 8.5 acres of land surrounding the site, which Chivas purchased from Strathleven Regeneration CIC. The company said the funds received by the profit for purpose organisation would be used to benefit the Dumbarton community.

The project comes after Chivas invested £50m in 2020 to install four high-speed bottling lines at Kilmalid in what is now “recognised as the best bottling factory within Pernod Ricard”.

Manufacturing director Liam Donegan said: “It is really a game-changer in terms of the long-term footprint that site has. It is a big site - the biggest bottling operation that we have within the Pernod Ricard group. It suffers from a couple of operational challenges, the main one being the traffic of HGV (heavy goods vehicle) and forklift trucks. The only way that we had to properly eliminate that safety risk was to redesign the footprint of the site.”

Mr Donegan added: “We want to bring that pride aspect into the operation that we see in our brands and our brand homes. The main driver for this is 100% safety, but it is going to bring great benefits to our employees and will allow us to develop the land that we have. We have been looking at it for about three years and just managed to sign off on the investment in the last few weeks and got going immediately.”

Asked if he could provide a steer on how much Chivas was investing in the project, Mr Donegan said: “It is well in excess of £10 million. It is a big project. It is going to take us 18 months of construction to completion. And it is one on the face of it which does not give us any operational efficiencies, but it does give us the benefit in terms of safety and community.”

He added: “This is one part of an otherwise long-term investment strategy to see that operation become state of the art and really the backbone and the engine of Scotch whisky in the Chivas portfolio. [It is] very, very important for us.”

Mr Donegan was speaking during a visit to Pernod Ricard production facilities at Nashik in India.

Declaring that India is an “incredibly exciting market” for Scotch whisky, Mr Donegan said: “Scotch itself has a very strong position. Chivas Brothers has an incredibly strong position within that. The middle class, the emerging market that is coming through, it just makes it a really interesting place. I have never seen a market that is quite like it.”

Asked which brands Chivas exports to India, Mr Donegan highlighted its 100 Pipers blended whisky, “the largest-selling Scotch in the Indian market”. It sells more than 1.5 million cases in the market, shipping it in bulk to the country before it is bottled locally. Chivas has just started bottling Ballantine’s Finest in India, as part of efforts to strengthen its supply chain, and also exports its other brands in cases to the market.

“All of our Scotch brands are really well represented here,” Mr Donegan said, highlighting Chivas Regal 12 years old, and the Aberlour and The Glenlivet single malts.