Communities often club together to fund schools, parks, piers or pubs. In the Scottish Highlands, folk have other ideas about how to regenerate the local area: whisky. A new distillery has begun production of its first batch of whisky, after raising a hefty £3 million from locals.
GlenWyvis distillery in Dingwall is the brainchild of a helicopter pilot, John McKenzie, who had seen how various communities in areas of the Scottish Highlands worked together to sustain themselves.
So many distilleries in Scotland are owned by huge multinational corporations and, although the whisky industry is fantastic for Scotland, a lot of the wealth is taken out.
His town of Dingwall had experienced economic troubles in recent years, like so many across Scotland and the UK, and he wanted to do something to address that.
Whisky distilling is historic to the area and John saw this as a great way to create local jobs, increase tourism – and to put Dingwall back on the map. He found it easy to galvanize support for the idea from fellow local people and together they formed a co-op in 2016 and launched a ‘community share offer’ that same year.
Some 3,000 people, from across the region and beyond, invested an incredible £2.6 million, which enabled the planning and development of GlenWyvs distillery – the world’s first community-owned distillery. A further share offer has brought in another £250,000, and production has begun.
Cait Gillespie a local historian for Dingwall, and supporter of the distillery, says: “So many distilleries in Scotland are owned by huge multinational corporations and, although the whisky industry is fantastic for Scotland, a lot of the wealth is taken out.”
John MacKenzie says that the support of the distillery co-op’s members, as well as advice from The Hive – a support programme for co-ops run by Co-operatives UK in partnership with the Co-operative Bank – has been invaluable.
“Thanks to this continued investment, Dingwall is distilling whisky for the first time in over a century.”
“It’s our distillery,” says Sheena Young, local resident: “As an investor, you get this spark that there’s a little bit of Ross-shire that is ours. This really gives something to Dingwall to call its own.”
The co-operative received support from The Hive, a nationwide business support programme for people keen to start or grow a co-operative or community enterprise, supported by The Co-operative Bank.