High hops for Islay Ales thanks to Business Gateway

Donald Mackenzie and Mackay Smith, owners of Islay Ales

Islay Ales, a traditional 4-barrel brewery based on the island of Islay, has doubled its turnover after being awarded a grant and receiving specialist support from local advisory service, Business Gateway.

Local entrepreneurs Mackay Smith and Donald MacKenzie approached Business Gateway for support as they embarked on the company’s first rebrand and the development of essential training workshops for their small team. 

The duo, who also run the established whisky company, The Islay Boys Ltd, have wholly-owned Islay Ales since July 2018. Since working with Business Gateway, the business has completely revamped its product offering with the notable introduction of a lager, the development of new recipes and the roll-out of a fresh, contemporary brand for the 15-year-old company.

These steps have significantly increased the appeal and success of the brand, which is now sold in all bars and hotels in Islay. It is a popular choice for locals and tourists alike who can also purchase it on the ferry crossing.

The increased turnover, which has sparked the growth of the business, has resulted in the installation of a taproom at their brewery and Islay Ales is currently planning work on bigger, bespoke premises.  This has created an opportunity for interested parties and investors to be part of the business’s future growth plans.

Mackay Smith, co-owner and head brewer of Islay Ales said, “While Islay Ales was well-known amongst its core customer base, we knew that the brand was due a refresh to increase its appeal and grow the business. This is where Business Gateway support was vital, as, following a strategic review, we applied for a training and growth grant. This allowed us to launch a contemporary new brand for Islay Ales that spoke to its heritage and position in the market as a premium ale.

“Since introducing the new brand, we have increased our customer base, and boast much broader appeal across a range of demographics. This has directly contributed to our increased turnover and, thanks to Business Gateway, we are in a strong position to achieve our ambitious growth objectives in 2020. This will include planning work on bespoke new premises that will allow us to streamline our brewing process and accommodate the growth in our expanded operations to be able to meet the increased demand for our product.”

Donald Melville, Business Gateway adviser, Argyll and Bute said, “Food and drink is a crucial industry that supports the economy of Argyll and Bute and it’s excellent to see Islay Ales benefit from Business Gateway support, providing a vital contribution to the wider growth of the sector.

“Business Gateway offers a variety of tools to unlock growth for businesses across all sectors including access to grant funding through the Business Local Growth Accelerator Programme, alongside specialist advice and the support offered by all our advisers.”

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