A NEW distillery which brought whisky making back to a Ross-shire town for the first time in nearly 100 years was among the big winners in the inaugural Highlands and Islands Finance Awards.
The awards saw winners from across the Highlands, Islands and Moray collect trophies marking how they had made use of financial packages ranging from crowding to public agency grants and more conventional loans to help them achieve their ambitions.
The winners and nominees included social enterprises, breweries, distilleries, hotels and bars.
But the big winner – taking the best overall financial package award – went to the GlenWyvis Distillery Community Benefit Society, which saw the return of whisky production to Dingwall for the first time in almost a century.
The project was kickstarted with a community share offer that raised some £2.6 million from 2200 people in just 77 days.
Announcing the award the master of ceremonies, Drumnadrochit businessman and public speaker Willie Cameron, said the panel had decided the project merited the title for the way it had recovered from rejection by mainstream lenders to surpass its own crowdfunding targets and for its aim of creating a new brand with potential to benefit the whole area.
And it was not the only thing the distillery had to celebrate, after it made the final shortlist for the best crowdfunding initiative – a category which would not have existed a few years previously, Mr Cameron pointed out.
As well as GlenWyvis Distilery, the smaller scale Dornoch Distillery, run by brothers Simon and Philip Thompson, also impressed the panel of judges.
However, the final award went to well known musician and broadcaster Bruce MacGregor, who raised £150,000 towards the cost of setting up his MacGregor’s Bar on Academy Street, Inverness through a well subscribed crowdfunding campaign.
GlenWyvis was not the only Ross-shire award winner. Another firm also enjoyed success in the best funding for start-ups category.
This title, which was the first award of the evening, went to Invergordon-based nail polish manufacturer SMC Cosmetics UK.
Making the announcement, Mr Cameron said that the judging panel had been very impressed by the way in which the business, which was set up a year ago by engineer Andrew Pearson, had overcome several challenges in order to successfully secure investment.
The business, which received funding support from the Highland Council managed Highland Opportunity (Investments) fund, the Highland Microfinance Fund and several specialist funders, recently announced potential deals with India, Ukraine and Mexico which could see SMC increase its Easter Ross workforce.
The awards ceremony was held at the Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness and sponsored by Close Brothers Asset Finance in partnership with Inverness law firm Munro and Noble.