Our story started back in 2014 when my wife Claire and I finally decided to try and turn our dream of owning our very own distillery into a reality.
Distilling has always been a passion of mine, I actually studied brewing and distilling as part of my Masters in Chemical Engineering at Heriot Watt University, and Claire has always had a particular weakness for gin, so it was the natural choice! The move also meant that I would be able to spend more time with Claire and my children, which was hugely motivating, as my career was in the oil and gas industry meant I spent a lot of time working off shore.
As a couple we are hugely passionate about Caithness, it where we are both from, and so we really wanted create something unique and that really expressed the heritage of our home county and the Scottish Highlands. With such a plethora of potential botanicals on our doorstep, we enlisted the help of a local ranger, Mary Legg, and a local herbalist, Brian Lamb, who helped us forage and identify those that could work well in gin. I spent many long nights trialling different combinations and in the end we created 55 different recipes (all carefully taste tested of course!) before we finalised on the Rock Rose Gin flavour profile. The name itself actually comes from one of the key botanicals we use, the Rhodiola rosea (a rose in the rocks), which was discovered on the distillery’s first botanical forage along the Caithness cliffs and which adds a delicate floral note to the gin
The very first bottles of Rock Rose Gin were available in August 2014 and we sold out our first year’s production in just 12 weeks. It’s been a whirlwind ever since and we never could have dreamed of how successful our wee taste of the Highlands would be! Two years in, we are now in year six of our original business plan and are exporting as far afield as Japan. We are also very proud to have won a number of awards for Rock Rose Gin including being named as one of the top 50 food and drink products in the UK at last year’s Great Taste Awards. Excitingly we have recently been granted planning permission to increase our storage area by four times its current size, which we hope will be complete early 2017.
As well as Rock Rose Gin, we also now produce Holy Grass Vodka, which as with Rock Rose Gin features many local botanicals, including its namesake which brings a distinct herbaceous flavour to the vodka. It’s also a tribute to the local legendary botanist, Robert Dick, who first discovered the unusual botanical Holy Grass on the banks of nearby Thurso River in the 1800’s. We love to experiment and this year has also seen the launch of Seasonal Editions of Rock Rose Gin, which allows us to explore seasonal variations and subtleties in flavour. Watch this space for more exciting developments soon!
During our journey we have also been lucky enjoy to collaborate with fantastic Scottish producers and believe Caithness is a becoming a great destination for food and drink. At the moment we are working with Caithness Chocolate who produce a chocolate featuring our gin, with Caithness Summer Fruits for a Rock Rose Gin marmalade and J A Mackey’s produce a tablet infused with our gin. We’ve even teamed up with Coast Candle Co to create a candle inspired the wonderful fragrances from our distilling days.