Business of the month: Dunnet Bay Distillery
Calling all gin lovers! Famous for producing the multi award winning Rock Rose Gin and Holy Grass Vodka, we caught up with Hanna, gardener at Dunnet Bay Distillery. We have been working with Martin and Claire, owners of the family owned distillery for almost three years now and we are excited to find out about their new ‘garden editions’- only available at Dunnet Bay Distillery’s onsite shop!
Martin and Claire are passionate about handcrafting spirits that celebrate the heritage and provenance of the north Highlands and pride themselves on using local, carefully selected hand foraged and traditional botanicals. They use unique handmade copper stills to produce small batches of hand-crafted spirits.
Hello Hanna! In the last two years we have spoke to both Martin and Claire about the chemical engineering and creative ingenuity that created Dunnet Bay Distillery but now we would love to find out more about your role at the distillery and how it impacts the business.
1. Can you give us a little bit about your background, and what you do at the most northerly distillery in mainland Britain?
I was born and raised in Caithness, moved to Edinburgh for university and almost moved to Canada for work but decided to move home again instead. My job at the distillery started four years ago with shaping the gardens and seeing how diverse a range of herbs and fruit we can grow. Helping with the foraging was a natural progression from there and my interest in wild flavours helped when we were designing the seasonal editions. When Martin mentioned he was looking for someone to experiment with different flavours, I put myself forward to do some distilling too.
2. Rock Rose Gin is one of the most exciting Scottish drink brands of recent years. For anyone who doesn’t know, what is Rose Rock Gin and how was it created?
The recipe for Rock Rose gin took over 18 months to create, testing over 80 botanicals and trying 55 experiments. The botanicals were narrowed down to a final 18, including four which grow wild and are harvested locally. These give the gin a local twist on the traditional London Dry gin.
3. Tell us more about the garden and the new series of ‘Garden Editions’?
We are very lucky with the site of the garden as it is fairly sheltered for being so near to the sea. There was already a good selection of trees here, including sea buckthorn and rowan, which we use the berries from, in Rock Rose gin. We’ve built a geodesic dome that lets me grow some more delicate plants, including lemon verbena and the Vietnamese coriander which adds a bit of spice to the Autumn edition. Every year, I experiment with growing different plants in the garden and now that we sell the Garden Editions in our shop even more of them are making it into drinks.
4. With the trees changing and the crispness in the air we would love to know more about the Autumn Edition?
When we were deciding on the Autumn edition, I felt that fruit represented the time of year and Martin wanted to add some spice… I’m always keen to use foraged or locally-grown ingredients and we get a lot of berries from Caithness Summer Fruits, but spices are a challenge! Luckily, my friend Louise came to visit and wanted to taste every herb we have. That day, we discovered that Vietnamese coriander tastes completely different from its smell and we found our spicy ingredient. Peppery Nasturtium flowers went in too and they make a great garnish.
5. How do you choose the flavours for each edition?
It’s as simple as going outside and seeing what is there. I do a lot of experiments and we use those which taste the best!
6. How does Dunnet Bay Distillery stand out from the others?
It has the best garden!
7. What else can visitors expect from a visit to the distillery?
The staff here are very friendly, there are samples of our gins and vodka available in the shop and tours are available too.
8. Keeping with Autumn..What’s the secret to making the perfect autumnal gin and tonic?
If you have a nice glass, plenty of ice and good tonic, you can’t go far wrong.
9. And…finally we promise! What’s your favourite gin cocktail?
That would have to be a Monster Munch Gibson, more unusual than delicious but I couldn’t resist making them after I saw the recipe in a cocktail book. A Gibson is normally garnished with pickled onion but in this case, the pickled onion flavour comes from vermouth which has been infused with Monster Munch crisps.