Five entrepreneurs based in Ayrshire & Arran are raising a glass today, on International Women’s Day, and hope their ‘spirit’ inspires others to break into male-dominated industries like distilling.
Lynda Gill, Philippa Dalton and Jenine Ward all originally from England, Juli Dempsey originally from the US and Bronwyn Jenkins-Deas, originally from Vancouver Island, Canada set up Isle of Cumbrae Distillers and launched their first gin in September 2020.
Their signature gin, Nostalgin, won gold at the Gin Masters and bronze at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) as well as finalist standings at the Scottish Gin Awards and the Gin Guide; Croc Rock won silver at the Gin Masters and bronze at the IWSC, the team was also a finalist for Best Newcomer for the Scottish Gin Awards.
This led to further accolades from the Association of Scottish Businesswomen as Most Innovative Start-up 2021 and Ayrshire Businesswomen's Most Enterprising Business 2021.
All has been achieved without any prior experience or knowledge of gin production. The secret ingredient to their success has been a willingness to approach other like-minded businesses and organisations to build relationships and partnerships. Through collaboration they have navigated many initial challenges, such as being mentored in the art of distilling, and it has led to a Clyde Island gin pack with Arran and Bute, to market the islands as a destination.
In branding Millport, we create an opportunity to showcase our island community. Our tours and tasting, a planned gin school and various workshops and events, will help create new opportunities for a steady stream of tourists, in both the summer and winter. Isle of Cumbrae Distillers will help position Millport as a year-round destination, improve visitor satisfaction levels, enhance tourism opportunities for other Millport businesses year-round and maximize the potential for social, cultural and economic growth.
As Isle of Cumbrae Distillers prospers, an indicator of our success is our ability to create employment and training opportunities for our young people in Millport. In the buildout of the company, we have already been recognised by the Scottish government as a Young Person’s Guarantee Employer. We have also engaged with business and tourism schools at Scottish colleges and universities, to provide projects and internships for students interested in future opportunities in the distilling business.
Look to the industry for mentorship programmes that exist or look to develop your own. Volunteering is another way to develop the skills and experience required to get started and other businesses really appreciate the benefits of your time and skills. We have had a couple of young women approach us about doing a ‘gin-ternship’ with us and we’re interested in that.
If you have passion and drive, you can do anything. Use the resources available and understand what those resources are because they are very rich in Scotland. VisitScotland, Business Gateway, Scotland Food and Drink and other organisations have been a great help along the way.
Isle of Cumbrae Distillers have benefitted from help from the Industry Relationship Manager in Ayrshire & Arran, Craig Lawless.
It has been a real pleasure working with the Isle of Cumbrae Distillers and seeing their business grow and develop. VisitScotland is focused on the recovery of the industry, building a destination and visitor experience which allows tourism and events to flourish now and in the future. We’ll continue to work with, and support, businesses to ensure we rebuild this vital part of Ayrshire & Arran’s economy.