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Issue 39 - Reach for the Skye

Whisky Magazine Issue 39
May 2004

 

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Reach for the Skye

Caroline Whitfield decided to give up life in the fast lane in London and decided to set up a distillery in The Shetlands instead. Tom Bruce-Gardyne reports

One morning in June 2002, Caroline Whitfield found herself doing some internet research on the Shetland Isles.

Living in London with her Scottish husband and pregnant with child number three, she was searching for a bolt-hole –somewhere to escape from terrorist threats and dirty bombs.

She had been to the islands as a child and says she “quite likes remote, extreme places” having been brought up in the far north of Canada with an English mother and Scandinavian father.

He was an inventor “full of lots of wild ideas that worked” says Caroline who feels she resembles him in many ways.

Sitting at her computer, Caroline was about to have ‘a wild idea' of her own.

“Fifty two per cent of the land is covered in peat and basically the rest is covered in water,” she says, recalling what she learned that morning.

“In other words it was perfect for whisky. So where's the whisky distillery? Hang on, there IS no whisky distillery! It was so immediately damned obvious!”

The next day she was on the phone to Shetland Enterprise.

With a law degree from Oxford and an MBA from INSEAD, Caroline had worked abroad for Unilever and then in the United Kingdom for the toy manufacturer, Hasbro.

Then came a stint as a ‘corporate incubator' during the dot-com boom where she worked with the drinks giant, Diageo. With a well-developed knack of picking winners, she felt increasingly frustrated at seeing some of her brightest ideas taken up by others. This time no-one was goi...

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