Kingsbarns Distillery bid blends golf with whisky

THE home of golf is moving a step closer to getting its first whisky distillery with plans to raise £1.8 million through “crowd funding” to build it.

The Kingsbarns Distillery is the brainchild of former caddie Doug Clement, who is tapping fans of golf and whisky to raise the capital for the plant and visitor centre.

He said the “sexy” combination of golf and whisky makes it an ideal business to pitch to small investors who want to feel they are part of a project, with an offer of exclusive tastings and a few bottles of malt a year part of the attraction, alongside longer-term financial returns.

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The 35-year-old hit on the idea of opening a distillery near St Andrews to give those who came to play golf in the sport’s historical home another visitor experience.

One client specifically asked about distilleries but decided they were too far away to visit during a short break.

To turn the idea into reality, Clement sought out the contacts he had made on the golf course, finding advice on the other side of the world. A friend put him in touch with Bill Lark, the man who turned Tasmania into the southern hemisphere’s answer to Islay, with seven craft distilleries now operating there.

With Lark on board, Clement devised a business plan along the Tasmanian model for a whisky distillery that will also make non-matured spirits such as gin in order to aid cash flow in the early years of the business.

The visitor centre, with a cafe and tasting area, is an integral part of the enterprise, and Clement found a derelict Georgian farm which ideally suited his needs and negotiated a 99-year lease.

The venture aims to be profitable long before the first single-malt Scotch goes on sale.

For his first round of funding, he contacted former clients for whom he had caddied. “I had always kept in touch with people and had thrown everyone’s business cards into a box. I dug it out and started e-mailing people,” he said.

The idea proved popular, with investors from Australia, Canada, Germany and the US among those signing up. The fledgling Kingsbarns Distillery raised £100,000 in six months, allowing it to get planning permission, preliminary distilling licences, a provisional £150,000 Scottish Enterprise grant and tax relief status.

Clement said he found many people were keen to invest because they liked the idea of being part of something that linked golf and whisky.

“It’s a combination of two of our greatest gifts to the world, and they go quite well together,” he said. “It’s a very sexy project.”

Finding that institutional investors wanted quicker returns than he could offer, and wanting to keep control of the company, Clement decided to use his business’s appeal to seek out more small investors from around the world. Last week he added his pitch to the business crowd funding platform Crowdcube.

Launched in 2010, the website allows anyone with an interest in the business an opportunity to invest and be part of the company’s success.

With some backers queuing up to invest more, he hopes to secure the £1.85m he needs to start renovating the buildings and commission the stills within the next three months.