Brewing Your Own Whisky
Scotland Based Club Seeks to Restore an Ancient Tradition
April 22, 2007
Hobbyists can brew their own wine or beer in their homes, but, in the United States, at least, brewing distilled beverages in your home is illegal. However, for whiskey aficionados who would like to try their hand at brewing and blending their own whiskey, help is at hand.
In the little village of Ladybank in the Howe of Fife, a former UK whisky marketing executive, James Thomson, is converting the site of an old farm into a small whisky distillery and private club.
Since the goal of the club is to return to the small farm, pre-Industrial Revolution style of brewing whisky, membership in the Ladybank Company of Distillers Club will be capped at 1,250 members. As the project is still in its development phase and does not expect to begin production until later in 2007 the current initial membership campaign is limiting itself to the sale of about 700 memberships.
Membership is Not Cheap and Price is Rising for Americans
The first tranche of 300 memberships was offered beginning in 2003. The price for that first group was £1,850 for UK residents. That tranche was sold out and a second tranche of 250 is currently being offered. The club's business plan calls for succeeding tranches to increase in price, and the cost of this latest offering of memberships has risen to £3,250 for UK residents.
This tranche has also been opened to people outside the UK and, because it is anticipated that distance will limit their involvement in the club's activities, the price for non-UK members was set lower at 3,950 Euros, which at the time of the offering was the equivalent of U.S. $4,750. However, with the recent decline of the dollar against the Euro, those paying in dollars will have to fork over almost $5,400 to purchase the 3,950 Euros needed to buy the membership.
Of course both the UK and non-UK prices will increase with each new tranche. While the club currently has no plans to add any annual fees to the membership, the founders have reserved the right to add such fees if they are required in the future.
Benefits of Membership
So what does one get for membership in the Ladybank Company of Distillers Club? All members will have a 50 year part ownership in the farm scale distillery with rights to either transfer their ownership to their heirs or sell it back to the club.
The club has taken a 50 year lease on the farm and the wording on the website implies that the membership and corresponding ownership rights will expire at that time.
Since the membership can be either passed on to heirs or sold back to the club, this does not sound like a financial investment that can appreciate and be sold at a profit. Members will receive six bottles of whiskey brewed at the distillery each year for a total of 300 bottles over the life of the membership.
Members can also join in the brewing process and, in fact, they are encouraged to do this as the purpose of the club is to bring together lovers of whisky who wish to experience more than the mere drinking of the beverage.
Not only will members be the recipients of the limited stock of the custom blended whisky produced at the distillery but they can also have the satisfaction of knowing that they personally participated in the brewing and blending of the whisky, they will also be able to purchase additional bottles of the whiskey produced at the distillery
The final major benefit will be the ability to request special commemorative and “owners reserve” bottlings which, because of their rarity, could command very high prices from collectors.
The Whiskey School
Unlike most wineries and breweries in the U.S. which provide tours for tourists, the facilities at the Ladybank Company of Distillers Club will not be open to the public for tours and will not be offering its whisky for sale to the public.
However, for those who are reluctant to make a fifty year commitment or don't want to part with the funds for the pricey membership, but still want to learn about and experience the brewing process, the Club offers a Whiskey School which is opento the public.
The Whiskey School offers half-day to three day programs, open to both group and individual sign-ups, where participants can tour the facilities and learn the art of brewing.
While the half-day program is very relaxed and general, the longer 1 - 3 day programs provide both in depth and hands-on instruction with participants being divided into smaller groups of 3 or 4 and allowed to work closely and received detailed instruction and experience by actually participating in the brewing process with individual staff members.
Those who help brew a batch in class will later receive a bottle, specially labeled to acknowledge the recipient's participation in the production of the brew that they helped to make. While the price for the three day school is considerably less expensive, relatively speaking, than a membership in the club, at £395 (at today's exchange rate, that is about U.S. $792) per person for three days, it is not exactly cheap.
While somewhat unique, the Ladybank Company of Distillers Club is but another example of how the Industrial Revolution and the resulting economic growth has not only vastly improved the material lives of people in the modern world but has also allowed them to experience and sample the positive aspects of a bygone era without the drudgery that everyday life in those days past.