Things are moving very fast for the GlenWyvis project that is taking shape in Dingwall. The community backed distillery initially reached out to locals offering them the chance to own a small part of a Highland distillery. Since launching in 2016, over 2000 investors helped generate around £2.6 million towards the anticipated overall costs of nearly £4 million associated with the project.
In today’s climate you’d have to be slightly mad or extremely rich to consider building and owning your own distillery. The community approach is interesting as it reduces the need for commercial borrowing and keeps the power and influence – or vision – intact without outside interference. The latest shareholding has recently launched and to date over 400 have raised almost £250,000 as the dream begins to take shape. Clearly there’s an appetite to be part of something bigger rather than a get rich scheme, as with all these distilleries still appearing across Scotland something will eventually have to give.
There are various different approaches offered by fledgeling distilleries to raising funds. Some prefer an exclusive club and the promise of limited bottlings when the magical 3 years are reached. Others stick with the tried and trusted cask ownership scheme with sub-categories linked to the level of your investment. At times the range of offers and distilleries is bewildering and for all the enthusiasm that each is successful long-term, our wallet only goes so far.
Distilling was widespread in this region with the legacy of the Ferintosh distilleries established as Scotland’s first behemoth. This was fuelled by an agreement with the Scottish parliament, the Forbes family could distil any amount of alcohol on their lands and only need to pay a small annual fee. This created a distillery haven for the family and a micro-economy as most of Scotland’s whisky from the period came from this region. Eventually in 1784 with competitors complaining, this special agreement was revoked and a level playing field established that would ultimately destroy Ferintosh.
More familiar to whisky enthusiasts will be the name of Ben Wyvis. This is thanks to a pair of stills introduced at the Invergordon distillery in 1965 to produce a single malt called Ben Wyvis. Today, it’s an extremely rare single malt having mostly gone into blends and was only in production until 1975. The stills themselves being underused have since been repatriated to revive the Glengyle (Kilkerran) distillery in Campbeltown where they are producing an extremely good whisky with a few minor modifications. However, the Ben Wyvis stills were named after a prior distillery that existed within the town of Dingwall itself. Established in 1879, new owners renamed the distillery Ferintosh in 1893 to take advantage of the famous name of the fallen powerhouse. Sadly, its fate was to match that of the inspired name as the harsh economic conditions of the 1920’s prompted its closure in 1926 and it never reopened.
Returning distilling to the town that has a whisky legacy does have a romanticism element, but this will only take you so far. GlenWyvis has initially offered a variety of gins featuring some locally selected elements – to provide that regional distinction – with local agencies receiving the proceeds of any sales. Fortunately, gin isn’t really a consideration here at Malt and we’re focusing on the Highland Inspiration bottling that has been released to celebrate the laying of the foundation stone at the distillery. This is a limited edition of 1600 bottles, bottled at 46% strength that retails for around £55 and is a single malt from unnamed distillery Highland distillery. Upon nosing, I had my suspicions as to which distillery and it’s certainly less than 8 years old.
GlenWyvis Highland Inspiration – Review
Colour: barley sweets.
On the nose: a fruit avalanche initially with pulped apples and a touch of cinnamon. Pear drops, melon, white chocolate and then the sweetness of cream soda rounding off a limited but light and airy engaging experience. Water brings forth Jacob’s Crackers and a floral note with traces of vanilla.
In the mouth: it’s a failed promise with the body and finish being especially timid. A large dose of cereals with porridge and some gentle apples and pears. There’s a sugary element that moves towards the candy floss finish but little else. Water helps develop a drier finish and the flavour of buttery pastry and five-spice with a scattering of black pepper. It’s not hugely pleasant or engaging.
The nose on this Highland Inspiration was delightful. So fruity and delicate with just the right amount of sugary sweetness, but the actual palate is a touch watery, lacking development and substance. This is probably the result of a timid American oak cask or one refill too many. Malt wishes everyone involved with GlenWyvis the best of luck and spending a great deal of time nowadays in the area, we’ll no doubt take the tour in due course. However, as whisky purchases go this is more a symbolic gesture than a rewarding experience.
My thanks to Michael at the Carnegie Whisky Cellars for the opportunity to try this whisky.