How rare whisky is funding community projects on Islay

Residents of Islay have played a major part in the success of the distilleries located on the island over the past few centuries, and now one of those success stories is looking to give something back to the local community.
Lagavulin celebrated the 200th anniversary of its distillery on Islay last year. Picture: ContributedLagavulin celebrated the 200th anniversary of its distillery on Islay last year. Picture: Contributed
Lagavulin celebrated the 200th anniversary of its distillery on Islay last year. Picture: Contributed

Lagavulin distillery marked its 200th anniversary in 2016, and as part of the celebrations has released an exclusive new bottling – the Lagavulin 1991 Single Malt Scotch Whisky – which was carefully selected by the distillery team and Ivan Menezes, chief executive of owner Diageo, for a limited run of just 522 bottles.

All of the proceeds of the sales of this run will then be donated to community projects on the island, which should see £580,000 divided out across seven charities.

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Nick Morgan, head of whisky outreach at Diageo, explained that the project is their way of saying thanks to a special place that has helped to support the distillery over the past two centuries, he said: “This is just one way in which we want to express our affection for the people who have welcomed us (Ileachs and others) to work and live on Islay for the last 200 years.”

The money will be distributed to a number of local initiatives, including a major donation of £310,000 for Islay Heritage, which they say will go towards helping to create an Islay Heritage trail to ensure more visitors understand the island’s rich history, with a portion also being used for conservation work focusing on Kildalton chapel.

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Steven Mithen, trustee of Islay Heritage and professor of archaeology, said: “Islay Heritage is hugely grateful to the Lagavulin 200 Legacy for the support it is providing to further our knowledge about the archaeological sites and monuments on Islay.

“This investment in our heritage will greatly benefit both the local community and visitors to the island. While some of Islay’s sites and monuments are very well known and accessible, others are virtually unknown, difficult to find and rarely visited.

“There are no doubt many more waiting to be discovered which will help tell us more about not only Islay’s story but that of Scotland, Europe and the path of human culture as a whole.

“We are delighted that Lagavulin shares our vision to reveal Islay’s past so that it can be explored and enjoyed by everyone.”

Lagavulin will also donate £60,000 to the Finlaggan Trust, which maintains the historical site at Finlaggan, the home of the Lords of the Isles, to be used to refurbish and modernise the existing visitor centre and development of the Finlaggan Bridge.

There will also be contributions towards the arts and events on the island as well as for upgrades to the island’s cyber café and swimming pool.

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Georgette Crawford, distillery manager at Lagavulin, who is a resident of the island herself, said: “We will all be raising a dram to years gone by and an exciting future ahead of us and this incredible island, as we close a year of celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the distillery. The range and ambition of the projects we are supporting is something that as an Ileach I feel very deeply about and I am so proud to see the proceeds of our iconic whisky benefit the local community in such an unforgettable way.”

The distillery will also create a new partnership with the RSPB as part of the Legacy 200 with a further £60,000 being put forward to restore and conserve peatlands on the island. Bottles of the Lagavulin 1991 can only be purchased through a special ballot on the Whisky Exchange, with the first bottle being auctioned separately to raise more charitable funds, and one bottle being donated to the auction site and to the Diageo Archive.