04 October, 2022

Bowmore Distillery supports the local community of Islay

The word community is, without question, central to human experience. The need to belong deeply ingrained in our nature. Today many of us struggle to find this sense of belonging locally, especially in our current digital era. Meetings and social gathering are now done virtually. We often celebrate the events in our lives with a thumbs-up or heart emoji. In contrast, Islay has a thriving community.

The residents of Islay work together to enhance the quality of their lives in this rural setting, while also protecting the very nature of their beautiful island. With limited resources and the constant challenge of preserving Islay, working together is vital for the island’s survival. So, when Bowmore Distillery expressed a desire to pledge support to help realise a positive legacy, the excitement could be felt across the island.

The Gift

Black Bowmore cabinet image

Bowmore Distillery has been an iconic feature on the shores of Lochindaal since 1779. Its presence is as harmonious with the landscape as the rugged and mountainous peaks in the east. With its long, rich history running deep, the whisky created at Bowmore Distillery has become internationally admired and respected.

Therefore, when news began to spread that the distillery planned to auction a rare collection of the entire Black Bowmore range of Scottish whiskies, it was of no surprise that it gained much media attention. Not least because to house this exceptional collection, a custom-built cabinet was crafted by John Galvin, fashioned from what’s referred to locally as Oregon pine (although you may know it as Douglas fir) – wood used previously in one of the Bowmore Distillery’s washbacks. Together this collection was visually stunning, but of course the true prize would be in the taste.

Articles started to appear in many well-known business magazines, including Forbes. The opening paragraph in these articles stated that proceeds from this sale were to go to the Islay Development Initiative, via the newly-formed Bowmore Legacy. Islay’s small, hard-working charity had suddenly gained transnational attention. Pressure would be on to ensure this money would be used in way that would support the residents of Islay and the community as a whole.

Giving back

Bowmore Distillery, Islay

Islay Development Initiative relies on donations; a charity powered by generosity. Following Bowmore Distillery’s substantial donation, this year has been a whirlwind of activity. The money has been split into specific areas, such as recruitment, a driving school, youth development and training, housing for young people and costs associated with delivering COVID-19 tests.

Eight young people from the island have now been supported into employment and further education. Training has been delivered in areas that will directly improve the lives on Islay and the preservation of the island’s surroundings, such as forestry, HGV and first aid. Until recently anyone wanting to learn to drive from Islay needed to travel to the mainland.

Subsequent to the Distillery’s donation, a driving school on Islay has been set up with plans to expand this service, following high interest. Drop-in groups have been set up to allow isolated and vulnerable members of the community to keep in touch, providing a hub for advice and information. In summary, the donation has been stretched to cover areas that mattered most to the individuals living here.

Grand acts of kindness

Whisky pouring into glass

Winston Churchill was quoted saying, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”. Enterprises like Bowmore Distillery make a living by keeping their business profitable. But when they give back to the community they improve lives, benefit communities and preserve the natural surroundings for future generations – what a gift! In doing so, we hope they have an overwhelming sense of pride and achievement, as so much has been accomplished with this gift in a short time.

This legacy will be a long term commitment from Beam Suntory (owners of Bowmore Distillery), and there are plans in discussion for the future.

Those preparing to visit Islay will often talk about their planned whisky adventures, but they will leave enthralled by Islay’s beauty and history (with a few bottles of whisky tucked away in their bags). The relationship between the island and its whisky is legendary; it’s important we preserve both.

If you would like to know more about Islay, please explore our website or reach out to us at info@islaydevelopment.com.

This article was written anonymously with permission from the Islay Development Initiative. However, the author leaves you with one clue to their identity: ‘I’m forever delivering the post, but I never walk a step’.