New member GlenWyvis distils multiple benefits for Dingwall community

GlenWyvis is the world’s first employee-owned and community-owned whisky distillery.

GlenWyvis employs five people who are ‘members’ alongside those who have invested in the project and each has a voice and vote in the running of the business. The aim of the business is to help rejuvenate the historic town of Dingwall and the wider local community by reinstating the traditional industry of whisky distilling following a gap of 90 years, and also has its sights set on being a dual production distillery also producing gin from early 2018.

Established in 2015 by John Mckenzie, known as The Flying Farmer as he also flies helicopters for television and film companies, the distillery is a Community Benefit Society which means that eventually a share of all profits will be reinvested into community projects. The distillery, its bonded warehouse and other buildings are being built high on a hill overlooking Dingwall – on farmland that has been leased to the Distillery by John Mackenzie for a £1 fee. An official opening will take place on 30th November 2017, with production of whisky following shortly thereafter.

The distillery recently appointed its first Distillery Manager, Duncan Tait, and the operation is overseen by a board of nine voluntary directors.

The distillery team raised the start-up capital through Crowdfunder. Their first share offer launched on April 16th 2016 and raised over £2.6m in just 77 days making it the largest ever community crowd-funded project in the UK.

Some 2,600 people chose to invest and become members of GlenWyvis with more than 60% of these members being from the Highland area – and the rest from all over the world. Regardless of how much they invested from £250 to £100,000 – every member has one vote and they are all classed as equal owners in the distillery. GlenWyvis went on to launch a second open share offer in August 2017 raising over £300,000 in the first three months and adding over 500 more members to the Society.

Monies raised from the second share offer – which has a target of £750,000 – are being invested to accelerate the distillery’s brand development, bring gin distillation to the Dingwall site and to reduce the costs of commercial lending so it can deliver on its community benefit remit sooner.

The project also has the environment in mind being 100% powered by renewable energy with hydro, wind, solar and biomass energy all available on site.

John McKenzie, founder and managing director said: “We wanted to build a business that put local people and the community at its heart. Crowdfunding has enabled us to do that and to create a business that is 100% community-owned – and now that community includes all the directors and employees. It is a very democratic way of bringing a large number of people into your business, but with that comes a lot of responsibility too. Now with the distillery set to open, we will continue to create more jobs as we move into full production. It’s a very exciting time for everyone involved with GlenWyvis – and we continue to welcome new investors.

Deb Oxley, CEO of the EOA, said: “It is great to see businesses that not only choose to look after their employees and to give them a voice, but also where the benefits of the business are rooted in the community in which they operate.

“We need wider mix of business models in the UK and certainly more that offer better social mobility for employees and communities rather than just serving the short term interests of external shareholders. The business strategy for GlenWyvis is deeply rooted in creating real community benefit while making the least impact on the environment.”