How a GlobalScot helped Harris Distillery’s dream of a dram come true

Anderson Bakewell's love of the small Scottish island of Harris inspired his decision to start a distillery there - and the GlobalScot network gave him the support he needed to get the project up and running.

"Anderson has been connected with the island of Harris for 45 years," said Simon Erlanger, the managing director of Anderson's brainchild, The Isle of Harris Distillery.

"In the past 50 years the population of Harris has halved as young people migrate to the mainland and beyond in search of employment, so it has an aging population and a very fragile economy.

"Anderson fell in love with it as a young man and was always looking for an initiative to help regenerate the local economy. It had to be something with longevity that was sustainable, and what could be more sustainable than a whisky distillery?"

GlobalScot helped Anderson get a management team in place - Simon, and former chief financial officer of Whyte and Mackay Ron MacEachran - who both had significant experience in the whisky industry.

"When somebody says to you they're thinking of building a distillery on the Isle of Harris, there's something that just makes incredible sense," added Simon.

"It's a beautiful place and there's never been a distillery there before. I was also attracted to the social ethos of the project. It is one of the first distilleries to ever be built with the view to help regenerate an economy, which is very exciting."

A global support network

With GlobalScot support, Anderson and his new team were able to connect with around 50 GlobalScots internationally.

"Anderson had a meeting with the GlobalScot team and they sent out an email to all their members, which got a fantastic response," explained Simon.

"We made connections with a variety of people which led to our single biggest pledge of investment, enabling us to complete the equity element of our funding requirements. Without that, I'm not sure this project would be going ahead.

"The other really positive output from the network has been with a Scottish jewellery designer based in New York. Having met Anderson, she was really keen to find out more and came over to Harris to have a look around the site. She's now a huge fan of the project and has offered to help us with our branding and perhaps create a range of items to sell in the distillery shop."

Public sector backing

"The public sector support has been hugely gratifying," said Simon.

"We received one of the biggest ever grants from the Scottish Government under the Food Processing, Marketing and Cooperation Grant Scheme. Highlands and Islands Enterprise has provided grant support beyond our expectations. Scottish Enterprise is an important equity investor via its Venture Fund.

"It has been quite overwhelming to see how the project has really captured peoples' imaginations - they see the benefits of what we're trying to do."

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