Doug Clement comes from Fife and, along with Greg Ramsay from Tasmania and Bill Lark, of Lark Distillery in Australia, he wants to join the growing band of small scale distillers in Scotland. Their dream is to establish a whisky distillery and visitor centre at Kingsbarns (near St. Andrews, Fife) and below is Doug’s story of how this idea came about.
“I guess this started back in the summer of 2000 when Greg Ramsay, who has since developed Barnbougles Dunes and project managed Nant Distillery, worked with me as a caddy at Kingsbarns golf links as well as at the Road Hole Whisky Bar at the Old Course Hotel, St Andrews.
Inspired by Kingsbarns he returned back to his homeland of Tasmania and created Barnbougle Golf Dunes, now Australia’s number 1 public course. I finally made it out to visit Greg in January 2008 primarily for the golf but during my visit he took me to his home town of Bothwell to show me the Nant Distillery he was developing with the help of Bill Lark of Lark Distillery.
As soon as I saw Nant it reminded me of a couple of the redundant farm steadings on the Cambo Estate on which the Kingsbarns Golf Links is situated. So when Greg over a few drams told me he believed there was a glaring gap in Scotland’s whisky geography, namely that there was no distillery in The Kingdom of Fife & St Andrews (home of golf) for visitors to unravel the mysteries of making ‘uisge beatha’, it was music to my ears as I have lost count of the number of times whilst caddying my clients have asked me where the nearest distillery is to visit and I have to direct them over an hours drive away to Pitlochry, Aberfeldy, Tullibardine, or Glenkinchie the other side of Edinburgh!
I returned home and began building my team and investigating all the possible sites by St Andrews. My first instincts proved correct though and East Newhall on Sir Peter Erskine’s Cambo Estate clearly stood out above all the rest in terms of the charm of the building and its location within the magical estate and overlooking organic barley fields to the Kingsbarns Golf Links and North Sea beyond!
We are now almost fully subscribed for our Round 1 of fundraising with only a couple of tranches of shares left, so its full steam ahead in achieving our primary goals of:
a) attaining planning permission with the help of one of the UK’s leading restoration architects Simpson & Brown,
b) converting our rights over the site from a Heads of Agreement into a comprehensive lease,
c) establishing the business case and finalising our preferred development and financial projections
d) attaining the 500,000 Euro SRDP grant for the farm diversification creation of micro enterprises.
Although we are very much hoping to create a fantastic visitor experience, first and foremost we want to produce fantastic single malt whisky and that is why Bill Lark’s experience and reputation is vital to our success!
“There’s nothing I can teach Scotland about making whisky, but what I can do is to share my passion for making whisky on the sort of small-scale that hasn’t been a feature of commercial whisky distilling for centuries,” says Bill. “We’ve had to develop innovative ways of doing things and a business model based on tourism and opening a visitor centre so that you sell direct to the public. But it works: I’ve been involved in helping set-up five distilleries on Tasmania, all of which are flourishing and making great whisky. Kingsbarns will happen and there will be plenty of others too.”
At last year’s World Whiskies Awards, Lark’s cask strength LD 100 whisky won the Best Other Single Malt Whisky Award after a blind tasting. In whisky guru Jim Murray’s blind-tasting a rating of 95 per cent was awarded for the Sullivan Coves six-year-old bourbon developed by Lark, which places it on a par with 18-year-old Highland Park and 20-year-old Talisker.
Bill and all our team believe it is time whisky-making got back to its artisan origins, back to a time where farmers would distill their spare barley in the byre. We want the practice to reconnect with the land, to take the process out of the hands of the conglomerates. I’m doing this for the love of it all, because I want to bring whisky to a part of the country (St Andrews & the East Neuk of Fife) where I was born, raised and love dearly. It might appear a romantic dream but I’m confident and fiercely determined to turn this vision into reality and succeed where others have failed.”