Nestled beneath the sprawling mass of Ben Wyvis mountain in the Scottish Highlands GlenWyvis is a distillery with a difference Flavourly speaks to Founder John McKenzie and Distillery Manager Duncan Tait.
First things first, what inspired you to set up a distillery in Dingwall?
JM: Having returned to Dingwall after ten years in the Army, I wanted to address the town’s issues and economic decline. The area’s historical connection with producing whisky and the success of gin from Scotland inspired the idea for a craft distillery.
You’re an ex-Army Air Corps helicopter pilot, farmer and green energy advocate; how does that all lead to opening a distillery?
JM: Prior to starting the distillery I had been a Director on the Board for the Dingwall Wind Co-op – the first 100% co-operatively owned wind turbine in Scotland – which successfully demonstrated the potential for the positive impact of a community-owned business on the town and to local people.
Your ownership structure is quite unique, being community-owned by 3000 investors. Why did you decide to go down this route?
JM: We were inspired by the success of Portpatrick Harbour, a community benefit society which successfully reached its £100,000 target through community shares in only a few short weeks. This gave us a model for developing a viable business that would be genuinely owned by the community, for the benefit of the community.
But because Dingwall is a small town of just over 5000 people, local residents alone wouldn’t needed to support the creation of the distillery, so we also planned that our community shares could be extended to a global audience to maximise the investment. However, we still needed to protect the core principle that a business owned by the community, for the benefit of the community, should be controlled at a local level. So we enabled local people living in the ‘IV’ postcode to invest for just £250. This ensured that over 60% of investors came from the Highlands of Scotland.
The GlenWyvis Distillery is powered by renewable energy; why is this so important to GlenWyvis? Did it present any challenges?
JM: The distillery and the farm on which it is located work very closely together to maximise the economic benefits. We believe that being green and sustainable is very important – and is justified for the distillery in both financial and environmental terms.
At the distillery, all energy is produced using renewable technologies – hydro, wind and solar are all in place – and the advanced heating system will be powered by chip biomass. From 15,000 KWh (in year 1) to a max of 67,000 KWh of non-thermal energy can be provided by on-site renewables.
Our biggest spend to date has been on the distillery’s biomass boiler. It was a difficult decision during a start-up, but was important to our board, members and consumers.
Onto the gin, what can you tell us about the recipe? What should the Flavourly community expect when tasting it for the first time?
DT: GlenWyvis GoodWill Scottish Gin is produced using nine botanicals (juniper, coriander, angelica root, orris root, orange peel, lemon peel, locally picked hawthorn berries, cinnamon sticks and almond powder). On the nose, the citrus notes are at the fore. When tasting, those citrus notes slowly give way to the spices and the almond maintains a pleasant mouthfeel.
GlenWyvis Whisky is currently laid down in casks, when can we expect to see it emerge?
DT: We will be bottling the first whisky in mid-2021, but this offering will only be for our investors/ members. Other bottlings will be available as and when the casks reach maturity.
Finally, how do you enjoy drinking Goodwill Scottish Gin? What’s the Distillery Manager’s perfect serve?
DT: I like my GoodWill with a couple of ice cubes and a high quality tonic. I personally prefer a ratio of two parts tonic to one part GoodWill Gin. My garnish of choice would be a twirl of orange peel. For me, this serve gives citrus notes early on and develops into a dry spicy finish.