Davy Żyw on his journey with MND
Author: Issariya Morgan
In his quest to drive awareness of Motor Neurone Disease and raise funds for crucial research, our Buyer Davy Żyw has explored the northernmost reaches of Scotland. What he discovered was a remarkable adventure, and a particularly special whisky cask.
In April 2018, Davy Żyw received the life-changing diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease (MND). It’s a condition that is relatively little understood among the general population, and Davy considered himself among that camp before his diagnosis.
“There’s a huge amount of uncertainty when you get diagnosed,” Davy reflects, “but the dialogue around MND has completely changed in the last five years.”
Charities like the MND Association have been crucial in driving awareness of the condition among the general population. “They do really valuable work to change the direction of conversation,” says Davy. “They channel funding and resources into the right research streams, to help find meaningful treatments.”
While there is currently no cure for MND, Davy firmly believes that it needn’t be so: “MND is not an incurable condition – it’s just underfunded.”
Since his diagnosis, Davy has worked tirelessly to raise funds for important MND research– a quest which soon took him to the northernmost reaches of his native Scotland.
The ride on
In 2020, Davy and his twin brother Tommy undertook a breathtaking challenge: to cycle 500 miles along the Scottish north coast, in just four days.
The route, known as the North Coast 500, comprises some of Europe’s most remote and demanding roads – popular among drivers, but rarely attempted by cyclists in such a short timeframe. A fitting challenge, then, to mark two years since Davy’s diagnosis.
“From being diagnosed, most people die within two years,” says Davy. “So, we wanted to mark the two years by doing something that was really tough and challenging, but very much life-fulfilling.” Through the cycle, Davy and his family raised £150,000 for the MND charity My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, while driving awareness of the condition through media coverage.
Davy reflects on the “incredible support” he received: from friends, family, local and mainstream media, and the MND community. A close friend, filmmaker Will Nangle, then decided to capture the ride in a film called The Ride On.
“When Will found out about my condition – and what we were doing to stick our fingers up at the disease – he wanted to get involved, and the film came from there. The Ride On is about me personally, but it’s also about my family’s challenge of living with this diagnosis and what we did to counteract it.
“I love hanging out with my brothers and friends, and I love being in Scotland,” he continues. “It was during lockdown, and it just felt natural. In my family, we deflected a lot of the emotions we felt about my condition and how it’s affecting me. We wrapped that into something else with the ride: it was a new challenge to focus on.”
A sentimental connection
Fast forward to 2022. Davy is now spearheading a collaboration between Berry Bros. & Rudd and the MND Association, overseeing the release of a charity bottling of the 2002 Macduff Own Selection whisky. A minimum of £60 per bottle will be donated to the MND Association.
As Berry Bros. & Rudd’s Senior Buyer for Champagne and Italy, Davy is accustomed to sourcing fine wines from some of the world’s most prestigious regions. Whisky, on the other hand, marked a journey into lesser-known (yet familiar) terrain, bringing him much closer to home.
“It was so thrilling for me to be involved in this project,” he says. “We pulled together samples from various sites all over Scotland: from Islay (which I’m very fond of), Speyside, the Lowlands and Highlands.”
What drew him to Macduff, over the many other casks from around the country?
The first aspect was the wine connection. The Macduff cask has been matured for 18 years in ex-Sherry butts, giving the whisky a Fino-style brightness and salinity. It’s also a vintage whisky, which appealed to Davy’s vinous sensibilities.
The second aspect was more emotional. “I have a personal connection with the town of Macduff,” he explains. “My dad died in 2003. He lived in Banff, a town just across the Deveron River from Macduff.”
“I’m very familiar with that area of Scotland, which is perched up on the northeast coast. Macduff is an old fishing community overlooking the North Sea; the next thing you see when you look up is Shetland or Norway. I used to play in the river with my brother Tommy, which is the water source of the whisky.”
It’s fitting that Davy’s selected charity cask sees him return to a place of long-held significance. He passionately believes that the profits from this special cask will make a tangible difference to the lives of those living with MND. Ultimately, it will help to fund research into finding meaningful treatments, and with hope, a cure.
Purchase a charity bottling of 2002 Macduff here. A minimum of £60 per bottle will be donated to the MND Association
What is MND?
According to the MND Association, “MND affects the nerves called motor neurones in the brain and spinal cord. Messages from the motor neurones gradually stop reaching the muscles. MND can affect the way you walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe.” It currently affects 1 in 300 people, and progresses at different rates.
The prevalence of people living with MND is low, which means that “health professionals may not see many cases of the condition”. This is connected to Davy’s point about MND being an underfunded and little-understood issue. Through sales of the 2002 Macduff charity bottling, we hope that the profits raised will help to fund vital research into finding a cure for MND.
Davy is now preparing for his next challenge: to cycle the Scotland High 5. Donate to his fundraiser here