Of all the gin joints in all the world, I had to walk into mine!
GlenWyvis is Scotland's only wholly community owned distillery, and the only one run on 100% green energy. It is a shining example of what crowdfunding can accomplish as a new form of investment. Two public offerings have reached their goal with the second currently expanded and extended. The story of this most unique of Scotland's distilleries has been well documented by many, including earlier in my own "Under The Tartan Sky" podcast with founder John McKenzie. If you don't know the story you can learn it here on my podcast...
(Under The Tartan Sky #049 GlenWyvis - Scotland's First Community Owned Distillery)
As a young man living in Texas in the 1970s, I was well familiar with the marketing tag line, "If you don't have an oil well, get one!" That was how petroleum service giant The Western Company sold its services. Oil was and is Texas gold. Today, in the Scottish vernacular, that line might easily read, "If you don't have a distillery, get one!" Whisky could well be Scottish gold and in 2017 exports of Scotch grew both in volume and value to a £4.3 billion segment of the industry - and that's not including UK sales. A report last year predicted as many as 20 new distilleries would be built in Scotland by 2020.
So I could say I became an "investor" or an "owner" in GlenWyvis as a strategic financial move, but I'd be lying if I said that. When I learned of the distillery's unique crowdfunding, I made a minimal investment mostly because it was unique. Sure, a part of me is proud I've helped create a new business, new jobs, and eventually will help GWs home community of Dingwall, plus other communities across Scotland and beyond (profits from the distillery will eventually be shared through a grant program), but truthfully GlenWyvis will neither soar nor sink based on my level of investment. Still, when my plans for a 2-week holiday on the Black Isle (just across the Cromarty Firth from Dingwall) began to take shape,, the idea of checking on my investment was naturally enticing and the folks at GlenWyvis were incredibly kind to indulge me.
Upon arrival I'm greeted by a sign that confirms no visitors, except by appointment. At present the entire distillery is run by only 4 employees and there is no visitor center, no tasting room, no guided tours. All of that will come but what now doubles as a sales office and conference room will have to be repurposed into a visitor center and store, and more importantly, planning permissions will have to be overcome including a new street entrance into the distillery.
My host is Michael Fraser whose CV includes stints within no less impressive references than Glenmorangie and Tomatin (two of my favorite whiskies). We both have a chuckle when we realize that Michael was involved in my long distance purchase last year of a bottle of limited edition Tomatin whisky. Small world!
First is a quick look at the two copper stills creating the new GlenWyvis spirit and their smaller little sister, "Heather," the gin still. It will be a few years at least before anyone, including wee investors like myself, get to sample a GlenWyvis whisky so in the meantime the story is gin.
Even prior to the distillery opening last year, GlenWyvis was "distilling' A GW gin to help support the distillery's then construction. That gin however was actually distilled in Shetland - it was GlenWyvis in recipe and name only. As gin does not have to be matured for years and years like whisky, gin production was begun immediately upon opening and now is part of a complete rebranding of the GlenWyvis image.
Goodwill is the name of GlenWyvis' gin, a salute to the good will of the people of its home community of Dingwall as well as supporters from afar, such as myself. The labeling is quite unique, from the new GW logo to the intricate embossing that tells the unique GlenWyvis story - from the botanicals used in the gin, to the distillery's location on a farm, to its total reliability on green energy, to its community of owners.
From what will one day be the visitor center and store, my next stop is Warehouse One where the first ever casks of GlenWyvis distilled whisky have only recently begun their maturation process. Warehouse Two will be new construction on site while Warehouse Three will be built in Dingwall proper. Roughly 250 full and half casks are stored in Warehouse One Michael tells me, noting the warehouse is at last beginning to take on a proper whisky warehouse smell.
Many of these initial casks are specially earmarked for founder McKenzie to the distillery's designer to the largest investor, who Michael notes, he thinks, is a fellow Texan. These casks include sherry casks, American Oak (bourbon casks from Jack Daniels) and others. At present only the angels are officially enjoying their "share." It will be three years minimum before official tastes are offered.
I ask, tongue firmly planted in cheek, which cask is mine? Michael replies they will be selling 43 casks this year at a price in the neighborhood of £2,000 to £3,000 each. However, before I can do the conversion from Pounds to Dollars and check my online bank account, he quickly adds there is already a waiting list of some 400 interested parties, some of whom have inquired of buying the entire lot.
Having only opened less than a year ago (late 2017), the first AGM for GlenWyvis will be this coming Halloween - appropriate for a spirits company you might say. The 250 casks is quite a landmark for the start up distillery but Michael is quick to point out this is the same volume some distilleries would distill and empty in a day! Oh well, you have to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run.
Meanwhile the company is already undergoing a total rebrand. Gone is the old circular, interlocked GW logo, replaced by a more minimalist typeface style.
I learned that a 5th employee is soon to be added to the GlenWyvis family, a general distillery assistant working closely with distiller Duncan Tait. Meanwhile, there is still time for you to join me, and a few thousand others, as a community owner of Scotland's most unique whisky distillery. The second public offering reached its target of £750,000 in early August but that offering has now been extended with an expanded target of £1-million. The offering will close when the target is reached and is expected to increase the family of community owners to over 4,000 and total funds raised in this manner to more than £3.5 million.
If you don't have a distillery, why not get a part of this one? Details are on the website at www.glenwyvis.com.