Dingwall Whisky Distillery Trust

History and development of GlenWyvis Distillery

Menu

Introduction

How GlenWyvis Distillery was made

Whisky distilling in the Dingwall area has a long and fascinating history, from Jacobite raids and government whisky privileges to distillery lawsuits and financial ruin. It's been nothing short of tumultuous. The Glenwyvis story (so far) looks set to follow suit.

Whisky foundations

Ferintosh Distillery, the first legal whisky distiller in the area, opened in 1690 and ran for nearly 100 years, eventually closing in 1784. The first Ben Wyvis Distillery opened in Dingwall in 1879, just a few years before the Ferintosh production line restarted (1893). And, like waiting for a bus, in 1896, a third local business, Glenskiach Distillery in Evanton, staked their own whisky claim. Sadly, all three distilleries were forced to close in 1926 due to US prohibition.

While a second incarnation of the Ben Wyvis Distillery ran for a short period in Invergordon between 1965 and 1976, there had been no recorded activity in the way of whisky production for nearly 90 years... until local farmer John F Mckenzie put in motion his dreams of bringing whisky distilling back to the area in 2013! Two vital aspects of John's background converged around this time: being a keen advocate of green energy and learning about the vast scottish whisky history from flying passionate owners, investors and tourists to dozens of distilleries.

The seed was sown

John had been racking up distillery visits across the country at every opportunity, gaining great insights into how distilleries work. As the Flying Farmer he was already well on the way to establishing a range of green energy systems on his farm (by way of offsetting his carbon footprint as a helicopter pilot), so the idea of combining these aspects gripped him entirely.

Timeline

GlenWyvis Development

2003

Hic!

For more than ten years, John visited many distilleries across Scotland. Subconsciously, a seed was sown.

The Borders Distillery
2010

Early days

Like many towns across the country, Dingwall suffered from shop closures as consumers moved online. As a result, the notion of a community owned distillery, run and managed by those living within the local community, took hold.

Early ideas included a visitor centre, situated on the original Ferintosh/Ben Wyvis distillery site (at the entrance to Dingwall), with a cinema, restaurant, shop, tasting and event rooms and transport links to the farm distillery.

High Street in Dingwall
2013

All systems go

By 2013 John had made the decision to pursue the idea of founding a distillery on his Dingwall farm (Scroggie Farm). Planning began in earnest.

John F Mckenzie in 2013
2014

Water

Farms need a lot of water... and so do distilleries! A borehole was installed to provide a plentiful and afforable supply of water for both businesses.

Testing the water supply
2014

The GlenWyvis name

After originally seeking (and being denied) permission from Whyte and Mackay to use the Ben Wyvis name, a portmanteau was settled on instead. With a nod to their local whisky producing predecessors, Glenskiach and Ben Wyvis, GlenWyvis was born. The domain name was also registered at this time.

The GlenWyvis name
2014

Planning

Architect drawings were produced and a planning application was submitted and accepted (with some restrictions on visitors).

An important part of the planning at this stage was to include two warehouses, one at the top of Scroggie farm, next to the distillery, and the other at the bottom, next to the more accessible road. Casks would then be rotated internally, i.e. within the land boundary, thus making vehicular access more accessible for onward distribution later on.

Architect drawing of the distillery
2015

GlenWyvis Gin

To whet palettes and kickstart cashflow, GlenWyvis's very own gin was launched. Initially it was made in Shetland (at the spaceport) before production was moved on-site in 2017.

a bottle of GlenWyvis Gin
2016

Community Share Offer

On the anniversary of Culloden, the first GlenWyvis Community Share Offer opened to the public. Over 3000 people raised a whopping £2.6 million, leading to the first publicly owned distillery.

2016

Land and services management

A 175 year lease*, charged at a peppercorn rent to the distillery, was arranged by John, to ensure the distillery operates without hindrance**. Included with the lease was free water and electricity***. In return, the farm is able to make use of the draff as supplemental cattle feed (it would need to be transported away otherwise).

* An important clause attached to the lease stipulated that John, as the farm owner and founder, is invited to all board meetings.

** All start up costs of the business were reinvested by John and his family to get the business off to the best start. Additional lease and landlords waiver was provided to further assist the business future. John also kindly allowed a section of his house to be used by the distillery staff during construction.

*** Saving the distillery a six figure high voltage connection charge at outset, John allowed GlenWyvis to connect to the farm's existing power supply, thus benefiting from 100% green energy production. The farm power grid was managed 365 days per year by John, saving the distillery approximately £2000 per month in electricity bills.

cattle
2016

Funicular railway

Visitor access to the site has always been limited due to planning restrictions, so inventive ideas for getting visitors on site for tours were always considered. One particular idea that stuck for a while was the Dingwall funicular railway concept.

2017

Second Community Share Offer

To reduce commercial borrowing and accelerate brand development, a second share offer was launched.

An additional £1 million was raised!

2017

GlenWyvis Basecamp

Basecamp was established in 2017 on the High Street in Dingwall (within the Victoria Restaurant) to provide a focal point for tourists. Sadly Basecamp closed when that business shut its doors.

GlenWyvis Basecamp
2017

Helicopter whisky tours

For shareholders who invested £2500 or more, John offered a private helicopter whisky tour. These tours took place around this time, prior to the official opening.

Helicopter whisky tour
2017

Opening of distillery

With much fanfare, the official opening took place on St Andrew's Day, 30th November 2017.

2018

A community asset to be proud of

We sang from the rooftops about our wonderful community asset.

2018

Finance and lending

Some background on the how the GlenWyvis product was financed and managed.

2018

Visitor access woes

Every whisky fan loves to visit a distillery, but we mustn't forget that the agreed plans for the distillery included two warehouses, not a visitor centre (the reason why an electric bus service from the town centre to the distillery was refused planning by the local committee in June 2018).

Ultimately, celebrating whisky production was always about invigorating the local economy and supporting the community.

Visitors to GlenWyvis
2019

The Gin Wagon

In 2019 the GlenWyvis Gin Wagon was dispatched to Loch Ness to allow tourists to explore the distillery via a virtual reality headset.

The Gin Wagon
2019

John steps back

After voluntarily running the business for three years, John decided to hand over the day-to-day business decisions to master distiller Duncan Tait and his team.

Duncan Tait and John F Mckenzie
2019

Fire

On the afternoon of Friday 18th Oct 2019, whilst John was travelling on the A9, a fire broke out in a biomass storage room (separate to the main distillery buildings) which contained eight tonnes of woodchip. Thankfully nobody was injured.

Fire engine on site
2019

Changes at the top

Within a few months of John relinquishing control, major changes were made by what had become a non-local committee.

A project to develop an old farm building as a warehouse at Inchberry near Inverness was announced in the press. John objected to this on environmental and road safety grounds.

Turmoil in the boardroom
2021

First Single Malt Whisky

In December 2021 the first whisky was launched. Bottled at just over three years old, Dingwall's first whisky in almost 100 years was launched in December 2021. John wasn't told, it was kept a secret!

First GlenWyvis Single Malt Whisky
2021

Dingwall Whisky Distillery Trust

Inaugurated in 2021, the Dingwall Whisky Distillery Trust (DWDT) was established by John, to put measures in place for the long term management of the land on which the distillery sits.

Dingwall Whisky Distillery Trust logo
2021

Farm for sale

After all his years of voluntary time and energy, John decided to sell Scroggie Farm and move onto the next challenge. This decision was influenced by the Inchberry project (which he objected) to, 20 miles from Dingwall, and changes made to agreements relating to visitors arriving directly at the farm.

A pivotal moment, on returning to his home and wife after an intensive few days flying (following storm Arwen), was to witness the then chairperson David Graham and now chairperson David Macintyre hastily exiting the farm. Thirty minutes later a sheriff officer arrived serving a writ which had been applied for without notice despite solicitors being in touch almost daily. Thirty minutes after that, an email was received from the distillery requesting a meeting without solicitors. This was refused and Civil Court proceedings have been active since that day (29th November 2021) and due to conclude with the sheriff's decisions in 2024.

It is still hoped that the right buyer will be found to continue John's extraordinary efforts. John has been compared at times to Mr Bates from the Post Office scandal; it's up to individuals to decide which comparisons are relevant.

Despite receiving correspondence, including this letter, John continues to speak highly of the distillery project he created whilst out and about on his travels.

Scroggie Farm for sale

Contact Us

All enquiries

Enquiry Details

Address

Dingwall Whisky Distillery Trust
c/o GlenWyvis Farmhouse
Upper Dochcarty
Dingwall
Ross-Shire
IV15 9UF

Dingwall Whisky Distillery Trust