A community shares offer has been launched to raise £1.5m to build the first whisky distillery on the Scottish island of Barra. Peter Brown, the entrepreneur behind the project wants the business to be owned and run by the local community.
Barra is an island of 1200 population and some 8 miles by 5miles, dependent on tourism, fishing and fish processing.
The community benefit society model creates an organisation owned by the community, for the community and ‘of’ the community where any profit made in the future is reinvested.
For Barra, the long term potential is some £2m of new money for other community projects locally. Peter’s aim is that the distillery will be environmentally friendly, using the local water from the reservoir close by, barley grown locally and driven by renewable power from the reservoir, solar power and wind turbines.
Community Shares Scotland is funded by Scottish Government and the Big Lottery to provide advice to projects like this one.
James Proctor, manager, says:
”We advised Glenwyvis Distillery in Dingwall which raised over £2.5m in 2016, from 2,441 supporters in 30 countries around the world. This was more in community shares than any other UK organisation. And they have an ongoing open share offer that is very close to its £1m target.”
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 in to other projects which will benefit the community.
Peter Brown continues:
“Scottish distilleries like to think that their whisky is imbued with the elements of the place in which they are created. This claim can be indisputably made by the Barra Distillery,” says Peter. “This is where Scottish author Compton MacKenzie wrote his novel which became the famous movie “Whisky Galore” filmed here on Barra in 1949, and it’s believed the mythical island location was in fact Barra.” Barra within its 35 sq miles contains craggy summits over 1,200 ft, over 1,000 species of wild flowers in rich meadows, diverse birdlife, and glorious beaches."
“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. 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, some 7 new jobs when fully up and operational, an attraction for the tourist industry with a visitor centre, and products for a growing market.”
“Barra whisky will be a top quality niche product, sought after by whisky connoisseurs the world over. Whisky sales are increasing worldwide, against the general tide of alcohol sales, and in countries where there is no overall market growth there is a move from blended to single malt. And there is a trend towards people increasingly seeking a unique artisanal product, which is true to its roots.”