RAISING A GLASS TO DUNBARTONSHIRE DRINKS INDUSTRY

Scotland’s Food and Drink Sector is worth more than £13.5 billion annually and supports 115,000 jobs via 17,000 businesses. The drinks industry leads the way with Scotch whisky now accounting for more than 20% of all UK food and drink exports.

Dunbartonshire is quickly setting itself out as an important hub for established global drinks businesses, new distillers, brewers, exporters and festivals.

Damon Scott, Chief Executive of Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce is enthused by the activity in the area: “I think these are really exciting times for the sector in Dunbartonshire. All of our drinks industry members are characterised by ambition, growth innovation and drive.”

WORLD CLASS

The biggest player in the area is Chivas Brothers, part of Pernod Ricard, who are currently rolling out a £50m investment in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment at their Kilmalid site in Dumbarton.

Laurent Lacassagne, Chairman and CEO at Chivas Brothers at the time, welcomed the granting of planning permission in October of last year:

“Today’s decision marks the beginning of a hugely exciting new era for our business and through this investment we will deliver our ambition to achieve excellence in our operations, enabling us to develop and grow our portfolio of iconic and global brands.

“It’s an exciting time in the industry, with Scotch growing in value and volume and exports increasing by 4% last year, and our expansion will enable us to lead the way and capitalise on the opportunities this brings.

“With an 80-year history in Dumbarton we’re proud to be investing and expanding in this community and look forward to progressing the project to the next stage.”

With a new CEO in Jean-Christophe Coutures, a surge sales in China this year and work underway to create the world-class operation by the end of 2019, the outlook is looking very positive for Chivas Brothers and for the local economy.

ON BONNIE BANKS

Loch Lomond Brewery started life in Euan and Fiona Maceachern’s kitchen in Luss on the shores of Loch Lomond.

A desire to brew beer and create a family business that would allow the whole family to get involved was started in 2011 in Alexandria.

Now, having brewed a number of award-winning beers including CAMRA Champion Beer of Scotland in 2017 and SIBA Supreme Cask Champion of the UK in 2016, Loch Lomond Brewery has rebranded to include a range of new beers in cask, keg, bottle and can.

With international orders on the rise Euan and Fiona have ambitious growth plans to double production, invest in their team and facilities and open their first taproom on the banks of Loch Lomond. To help make this happen they recently set up a successful crowd-funding campaign over-funding their initial £350,000 target by £150,000 to raise ½ a million pounds. This will enable them to move ahead with their plans much more quickly.

FROM MICROCHIPS TO MICRO BREWERY

Inspired by the rich local history of the area and the raw ingredients that Scotland provides, IT professionals, Andrew Jarvis and Iain McLaren’s Lennox Brewery is the most recent addition to Dunbartonshire’s craft ale industry.

Andrew and Iain, also a West Dunbartonshire councillor, hope that their new venture heralds a new era of beer production in the town that has a heritage of brewing which was an important industry in the mid-19th Century. As well as brewing their craft ale using locally-sourced products Lennox Brewery are taking an eco-friendly approach to create as little waste as possible and re-using by-products of the brewing for other procedures.

IN-GIN-IOUS

Mark and Alison Hazell settled in Scotland nearly 20 years ago after finding their dream house, “The Jaw”, a 300-year-old miller’s cottage nestling on the shores of Bardowie Loch, near Milngavie. They now run a successful micro-brewery and, more recently, launched their own small batch gin.

Their business journey began after Mark took voluntary redundancy from an IT company when the opportunity arose at the beginning of 2014.

Having undertaken extensive research on the brewing industry in the West of Scotland, Mark decided to set up a microbrewery to supply craft beer and so “Jaw Brew” was born. The beers were well received and a strong trade was built up over the next couple of years with Mark and Alison attending various trade shows to market Jaw Brew beer.

They noticed that not only was demand for gin on the increase, but that the same customers who were buying Jaw Brew were also interested in buying gin.  Before long a strategy was developed to increase the offering to their existing customer base and attract new ones and, in 2016, they launched the first of their-award-winning Hazell&Hazell gins.

Work is now underway to create a new distillery at The Jaw, to realise growth plans and take the business into its next stage of development.

Mark and Alison have also been heavily involved in the development of Milngavie’s Beer Festival which has become a key event in the Dunbartonshire calendar.

IN THE SPIRIT

Spirit of Alba is an independently run family business based in Kirkintilloch and set up by Dr Jim Hopkins. The company was established in 2015 to raise awareness of the fascinating and innovative world of whisky.

With customers all over the world, Spirit of Alba specialises in the retail of Scotch and a variety of other choice spirits. As well as offering an accessible range of products the company also caters for the growing demand for a collectors’ items such as limited-edition bottling, oddities and even a closed or silent distillery bottling.

A 300 acre site in Kirkintilloch was recently secured for the development of a new distillery incorporating a visitor centre with enough land left over to grow and supply the barley needed to produce the new whisky.

Spirit of Alba is also the company behind the highly successful Gin & Whisky Festival that was launched this year to celebrate Kirkintilloch’s whisky heritage – epitomised by Kirkintilloch-born, Rita Cowan, who became known as “The Mother of Japanese Whisky”.

Meanwhile in Milngavie co-owners of the popular Finsbay Café-Bar-Restaurant, including former Scotland and Warriors rugby captain Al Kellock and businessman, Billy Milligan, recently launched their very own Caulkers Dark Rum – a celebration of Clyde shipbuilding and West Indian rum trade.

Whilst in the west of the county, the somewhat-older Auchentoshan Distillery, established in 1800 and owned by Morrison Bowmore Distillers, already attracts those on the whisky trail to Dunbartonshire to enjoy tours of the distillery.

THE NEXT ROUND?

Commenting on future prospects Damon Scott adds: “Dunbartonshire has been a bit of a hidden gem but there is a real momentum growing with a number of notable businesses making the decision to locate here during my 2 years as Chamber CEO. They are attracted by the relatively low cost-base coupled with easy access to Glasgow and Renfrewshire and good transport links to the M8 and the airport which is only 10 minutes drive.”

For further information, membership or if you would are considering locating or investing in Dunbartonshire contact Damon Scott, damon@dunbartonshirechamber.co.uk, +44 (0)141 280 0272 or visit www.dunbartonshirechamber.co.uk

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Chamber admin are responsible for the day to day running of the chamber, dealing with enquiries, membership as well as organising events and meetings.