A unique collection of whisky bottlings were recently put up for auction to raise much-needed funds for a licensed trade charity, finds Sean Murphy

Proving that the spirit of community and ­collaboration that is evident in the whisky industry can be used for something other than just ­driving the category of Scotch ­forward, a group of whisky ambassadors recently got together to ­create a ­collection of unique whisky bottlings, donated by their brands, to help raise much-needed funds for a licensed trade charity.

The brainchild of Craig Johnstone and Andy Bell, the Ambassadors’ Collection raised more than £10,000 when it was auctioned off, with the proceeds being donated to The Scottish Licensed Trade Benevolent Society (The Ben) – a charity which offers financial, social and emotional support to people working in the licensed trade.

“We wanted to draw on the ­community aspects of the Scotch whisky industry and make it ­obvious that when all of the ­distilleries pull together we can really achieve something that benefits the wider community,” said Andy Bell, sales manager for Arran Distillery, “to show that we can all unite in a common goal, in this case raising money for an important cause.”

In total, 29 bottles were provided by ambassadorial teams from whisky companies in Scotland and Tasmania.

The unique set featured a range of special bottlings including a Glenlivet from 1969, a Kilchoman 10th anniversary signed by distillery owner Anthony Wills, a Port Charlotte 2001 Feis Ile 2018 signed by Alan Logan and Adam Hannett (production manager and head ­distiller), a Lark Classic Cask signed by Bill Lark (founder) and an Old Particular Mortlach 13-year-old signed by chairman Fred Laing.

A special bottle was even ­created for them by the ever popular Springbank – the one-off 11-year-old Ambassadors’ Collection Bottle – which eventually sold for £2200.

Mr Johnstone, who is the brand ambassador for GlenDronach, Glenglassaugh and BenRiach, said that he was “over the moon” with the final total of £10,150 that was raised, and that the full amount was “much more than they could ever have expected”.

He said: “At the 2017 Interwhisky Festival, Andy and I spoke with a number of fellow brand ambassadors about our annual festive ­get-together and thought it would be a great idea to bring the industry together with a charity auction.

“The original aim was to bring a group of people and whiskies together and to raise awareness for the Ben.

“To break the £10,000 barrier with 29 bottles was amazing, and to be able to teach the younger people coming into the industry that you can organise events like this and really make a difference was important for us. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do this every year.”

Chris Gardner, chief executive of the Ben, added that the money would be used to support their new campaign to raise awareness of the fact that people within the trade can have issues with mental health.

She said: “I was blown away by the amount raised. It was a fantastic idea and really showed how easy it is for people to take a wee bit of time to get involved and that they can really make a difference.”

Mr Johnstone added: “Hearing that part of the money will be used to help teams out of work after the Art School fire and another part was used to help set up a Scottish Licensed Trade mental health ­helpline, emphasised how important these community efforts can be.

“We’d like to thank everyone who got involved, with a special mention to the guys in Tasmania who made this an international effort.”

• To learn more about the Ben and the work they do, please visit www.bensoc.org.uk

About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things whisky-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over six years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink.

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