Local dram comes true with whisky galore distillery

31st Jan 2019

Hebrideans will be given the chance to win back more than the angels’ share with a stake in a new distillery on the island that featured in the classic movie Whisky Galore.

Community shares in the long-awaited development on the island of Barra are to be sold to help bring the project to fruition.

Peter Brown, a local businessman, says the distillery — one of the smallest in Scotland — will be a paragon of environmentally friendly virtues, using water and barley grown locally and driven by renewable power from a nearby reservoir, solar power and wind turbines.

Under his business plan Brown has developed a community benefit society model, in which the project is owned and run by the community for the community. He has launched a community share offer, with shares from £250 for those living locally and £750 for those further afield, through which he hopes the society will raise a minimum of £1.5m.

If successful he believes the new company, Uisge Beatha Nan Eilean (uisgebeathananeilean.co.uk), will invigorate the local community, which, with a population of about 1,200, depends economically on tourism, fishing and fish processing.

Brown believes the venture, producing 25,000 litres of whisky annually, could generate millions of pounds for other local community projects.

“We’ve seen so many good traditional and modern businesses in Scotland sell out and take the capital, with the business ending up in overseas ownership,” he said. “Jobs are often lost, and they’re not wholly Scottish any more. We want to retain 100% of our retail value profit, by selling our products ourselves, and for the distillery to be owned for posterity by the community it serves. It will provide long-term employment, an attraction for the tourist industry with the distillery visitor centre, and products in a growing market.”

Community Shares Scotland, an organisation which supports community enterprises and is funded by the Scottish government and Big Lottery Fund Scotland, has been advising Brown on the community share offer. James Proctor, programme manager of Community Shares Scotland, said: “Community shares are a democratic form of governance, offering one vote per member investing, no matter how much you invest. They can also offer 4% interest to attract investors, and often see money rolled back into other projects which will benefit the community.

“This is the second Scottish distillery we have advised on the elements of raising essential funding through a community shares scheme. GlenWyvis Distillery in