Opinion: Analysing the impact of the Distillers One of One auctions

Opinion: Analysing the impact of the Distillers One of One auctions

With two of a promised three auctions completed, putting an exceptional range of one-off Scotch whiskies and experiences under the hammer, The Distillers' Charity has released a report that shows how the proceeds are being utilised

In late March, The Distillers’ Charity, the philanthropic arm of the Worshipful Company of Distillers, presented its Impact Report at an event in Edinburgh’s Surgeons’ Hall. This eagerly awaited update follows the resounding success of the second Distillers One of One auction in October 2023, which saw 39 immeasurably rare, one-off Scotch whiskies from 36 donors go under the hammer. Though the whiskies themselves — not to mention the 18 auction records that were broken — are newsworthy, it is the real-world impact of the sale that deserves the most focus, as the entirety of the auctions’ hammer prices fund The Distillers’ Charity’s philanthropy, to the tune of £4.2 million so far.


Though perhaps not as well known by enthusiasts as the whisky industry’s other major associations, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and the Keepers of the Quaich, the Worshipful Company of Distillers is by far the oldest, having been granted its status as a City of London livery in 1672, and has the widest purview, encompassing the entire distilling trade. The Distillers’ stated aims are also distinct. While the SWA is a trade association that focuses on protecting the Scotch whisky industry through lobbying and legal enforcement, and Keepers is a networking body that recognises service to the industry, the Distillers goes a step beyond the interpersonal scope of the latter by way of its significant support of spirits education and charitable causes — especially those involving young people.


Of the money raised, 90 per cent has gone to The Distillers’ Charity’s Youth Action Fund, an initiative that aims to transform the life chances of young people aged 16–25 in Scotland, with the remainder supporting the charity’s other core causes, including helping people in the industry facing hardship. The Youth Action Fund’s vision is a society where “young people, irrespective of their background, develop self-belief, confidence, and resilience, enabling them to fulfil their potential in education and training, leading to valuable work and lasting employability”. In 2021, the charity appointed Inspiring Scotland, a social enterprise founded in 2008 that works with grassroots-level partners to develop measurable solutions for some of Scotland’s most ingrained societal problems, to manage the fund. So far, its work on behalf of the charity has included mapping youth unemployment across Scotland, identifying gaps and opportunities, understanding existing employability initiatives, developing the fund, and curating the portfolio of charity partners supported by the fund — Street League, Enable, FARE, Aberdeen Foyer, Action for Children, and the Talk About Trust.


In Scotland today, an estimated 250,000 children are living in poverty. That’s close to one in four (24 per cent) of all children in the country. This start to life has a lasting impact on both health and employability, with youth (16–24) unemployment in Scotland for those not in full-time education at 10.9 per cent as of December 2023 — more than double the rate for the general working population. Of the numerous complex barriers to employment for Scotland’s young people, the most commonly reported are mental health, literacy and numeracy challenges, and learning challenges — barriers that are exacerbated by the complex systemic issues of generational worklessness, difficulties with structured environments, and lack of access to affordable, positive activities. This is why the Youth Action Fund takes a holistic approach built on engagement, trust, and support that aims to deliver soft outcomes such as increasing motivation, personal responsibility, and resilience.


So far, the fund has engaged 1,663 young people and delivered 1,084 employability outcomes. Each of those young people have had their lives changed for the better as a direct result of the whisky industry’s commitment to making Scotland a better place, and the voluntary support of hundreds of drinks professionals working across nearly 40 companies. I think this is an incredible achievement and something we can all raise a glass to.


The full Impact Report can be found at distillerscharity.org. 

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