Business Case Study - Kingsbarns Distillery


A local golf caddie and dram-lover, Douglas Clement showcased his #ScotSpirit by turning his dream into reality. The result was the opening of Kingsbarns Distillery, the Wemyss family’s first single malt whisky distillery in the delightful East Neuk of Fife.

Douglas’ story, ‘from dream to dram’ is conveyed to visitors in the restored farm buildings on the Cambo Estate near the village of Kingsbarns. Here's what he had to say.


What does the Spirit of Scotland mean to you?

At Kingsbarns we are producing a spirit at our distillery which we then fill into casks before waiting a minimum of three years until we are allowed to sell it as Kingsbarns Single Malt Whisky. It’s a very long term start up project as our main product is not ready for so many years.

Thus for our business, we see the spirit of Scotland for Kingsbarns on the production side being about quality ingredients, craft production techniques and quality. On our visitor experience side we see it as being about the warmth and knowledge of our staff to every visitor who walks through the door. We try and share our story on how the business was created initially by myself but then turned into reality by the Wemyss family.


Which one of the Spirit of Scotland values do you identify with? 

From looking at the dictionary definition of spark, “a small fiery particle thrown off from a fire”, this seemed to be a rather fitting word for how the Kingsbarns Distillery and Visitor Centre was created.

The fire in my case was all the golfers that I used to caddie for at my local course, Kingsbarns Golf Links, by the home of golf, St Andrews. The spark was ignited by a few of these people asking me if there was a single malt whisky distillery for them to tour after their round of golf, to which in 2008 I had to respond that there wasn’t one at the time.


Spark banner


What about your business makes you identify with this value?


My spark of an idea was to build a single malt whisky distillery and visitor centre by the home of golf, St Andrews. I set about trying to turn it into reality, with no experience in either whisky or business, but a determined belief and spirit of adventure that I had identified a gap in the market that I could turn into my very own field of dreams.

I found an absolutely charming yet ruined 18th century farm steading with a doocot, horse mill and a variety of quirky old byres then raised some money from my golfing clients to obtain planning permission for its transformation, which I gained two years later in 2011.

Then came another round of fundraising. After rejection after rejection the turning point came in September 2012 when I secured a £670,000 Scottish Government grant shortly followed by a £3million investment from the Wemyss family who took my project my the scruff of the neck and turned the initial sparks I had ignited into reality. We opened to the public on St Andrews Day in 2014, and commenced distillation in January 2016.


What do you do to showcase your spark to your customers?

In terms of how we showcase our spark and spirit to our customers, on the visitor experience side we have a fantastic ‘aromatron’ in our old cow byre made up of highland cow horns which our visitors have to smell and guess the different whisky aromas. We also restored our doocot which our visitors can explore and see where the 1st cask sits maturing. Other surprises await our visitors, but they will have to come and see those for themselves!

On the production side of things we capture the heat from our distillery, using it to heat our visitor centre through underfloor heating and we have our own water supply which we use for both the whisky production and drinking water in the visitor centre. The compact and innovative design of our distillery with milling, mashing, fermentation, distillation and even a little maturation all within the one ‘barn’, creates a great warm, sparky environment with fantastic smells and aromas.

Within our shop we showcase our owner’s, the Wemyss family, existing range of Wemyss Malt Whiskies and Darnley’s View Gins created my co-director William Wemyss since 2005, all of which also illustrate true Scottish spark and entrepreneurial spirit.


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