Well it was early 2014, and our conversations from the previous year (mainly started and remembered in the 2013 Courchevel Mates Ski Trip) relating to a distillery were progressing on several fronts. Iain Ross, my best mate from school, was sure that he knew ‘the ideal spot for a distillery’. After delaying or deferring (forever) Iain’s idea for selling cool bonnets to a global audience we pencilled in a visit to Raasay.
New distillery investment plans were appearing regularly, but all smacked of a disparate investment group backing an ambitious entrepreneurial group, usually with no start up or whisky industry experience, which to my mind wasn’t a great formula for long term success for the early investors. In hindsight one group that I was impressed was because of the management teams previous industry experience, was the Isle Of Harris Distillery – never mind, you can’t get everything right.
Raasay – a unique island in the lee of Skye with no chance of being emulated and a charm that was interest arousing seemed to me like a potentially stronger brand recipe than many obscure and contrived potential from various Central Lowlands, Fife and Borders initiatives.
Having solicited the locals opinion (met Embie, Davie Croy, John the local engineer(sadly passed away), Ollie the Architect and Norman’s Dad – local crofter,fireman and policeman), which was overwhelmingly positive,in the local the night before, the input from Leonie and the children, the changing views (typical four seasons in a day stuff from NW Scotland) I left that Sunday resolute to work out how I could make this happen. I walked round the plot of land imagining how it would fit the size of buildings I estimated would be required to produce whisky – to be honest warehousing and bottling were functions I imagined would be ‘outsourced’ and felt confident in my experience to arrange those activities. How do you make (good) whisky and how much would this venture cost were main questions on my mind ?
We left Raasay with the kids enjoying steering the ferry across the short stretch between Churchton Bay and Sconser on Raasay.
I noticed most of the start ups were employing or paying consultancy fees to typical industry heavyweights to take the lead on producing their single malt, but again for me that felt like employing some industry heavyweights from IBM etc for a software start up – buyer beware ! My natural entrepreneurial spirit led me more towards Alasdair Day, someone who had given up his job as a food scientist to pursue the emotion that was aroused when he was given his great grandfathers whisky recipe book. Alasdair wanted to build a distillery in the Borders but was having difficulty raising the finance to do this – I asked Alasdair if he would help me build a distillery on Raasay and in return I would reward him and shook hands that I wouldn’t forget his plans re the Borders, but only when we had got Raasay well and truly established.
I plan to catch up with the current day progressively.