VIDEO: “We’ve created a distillery – what can YOUR community create?”

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“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,” says Cait Gillespie – local historian for Dingwall, based in the Scottish Highlands. The town has experienced economic troubles in recent years, like so many across Scotland and the UK.

Putting Dingwall back on the map

Dingwall resident, John McKenzie, works as a helicopter pilot and witnessed how communities in areas of the Scottish Highlands worked together to innovate in order to sustain themselves. 

This led to a vision – to develop a whisky distillery for his town of Dingwell. 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. John found it easy to galvanize support for the idea from fellow local people and together they formed a co-op in 2016 and they launched a 'community share offer' that same year.

Incredibly, some 3,000 people, from across the region and beyond, raised an incredible £2.6 million which enabled the planning and development of GlenWyivs distillery – the world’s first community-owned distillery.

Getting over the finishing line...

In 2017, when building of the distillery commenced, GlenWyvis realised it would still need money in order to complete the building and launch the successfully launch the distillery. Rather than borrow money and start to incur expensive debts, the co-op’s board one again decided to launch a community share offer – this time an open share offer, one of the world’s first, meaning there is no deadline to invest and they have now raised over £1 million. 


John McKenzie explains:

“We needed some support and were signposted towards The Hive. The team came up and helped to put together an Open Share offer. Without that support, we would really have struggled.

As part of this process, we were awarded the Community Share Standard Mark which has given us the confidence as directors, which we've been able to pass on to the investors.”

Thanks to this continued investment, GlenWyvis has successfully built a new distillery. January 25th 2019 marked the first anniversary of the first test whisky runs at GlenWyvis back in early 2018. Shortly after, the first new make spirit was filled into the casks in early February – and now 12 months later they have over 360 casks of various sizes all quietly maturing in their bonded warehouse. 

"It's our distillery" 

Sheena Young, local resident, says:

“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.”

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This film has been produced for The Hive, run by Co‑operatives UK in partnership with The Co‑operative Bank, by Blake House Filmmakers Co‑operative.

Written by Leila O'Sullivan
Updated: 27/02/2019