What did you do before creating your distillery?
Before embarking on the Crafty Distillery journey I worked as a Creative Director in the design industry for over 15 years, creating brands for all sorts of companies. Craig Rankin, our distiller, has many years experience running high end boutique hotels, restaurants and bars, and is also a fully trained chef. Between us we had the skills to make the gin look and taste good without going outside our business. In part that’s why we are called ‘Crafty’, as we like to learn and do it all ourselves.
What made you decide to create your Craft Distillery?
Our journey began back in late 2013, with a bit of banter with my brother Stephen. Thanks to our father we were both big fans of Scotch Whisky, this led to many conversations about spirits and distilleries and peeked my interest enough to do some research. I saw an opportunity to create a distillery known for its craft process and inclusivity. To do that approach justice we needed to build a grain to glass craft distillery that could make any spirit from scratch, and that was where Crafty Distillery was born.
What is the inspiration behind your gins?
Our Hills & Harbour Gin is inspired by our region’s natural and unspoilt assets, from the forests (largest in the UK) and to our coastline. We grew up in Galloway so wanted to capture an essence of our region. From the forests we take Noble Fir needles and from the shore we take Bladderwrack seaweed, these add big flavour, aroma and provenance with purpose to our gin.
What is the distillery like and can you tell us about your base spirit?
Our distillery is a grain to glass setup to ensure we can do it all under one roof. So rather than say the 1 still that most gin makers have, we have 200 square metres full of equipment - grain hopper, grain mills, mashers, fermenters, stills (5), bottling machines, barrel stores etc.
We work hard to add a special base to our gin, which is very rare in our industry. After milling, mashing, fermenting and stripping our local wheat, the final spirit run offers up fantastic character and smoothness that brings a high level of integrity and quality to our gin. Not only are we creating something really tasty, but crucially it’s unique to us.
Can you tell us more about the distillation process and botanicals you use?
In terms of the botanicals have always follow our simple brand mission. ‘To create tasty honest spirits for everyone who likes a tipple.’ To achieve this our distiller Craig Rankin developed our Hills & Harbour Gin over 14 months and more than 90 necessary recipes to dial in the final blend we use today. To ensure vibrancy and a wide appeal, all of the five basic tastes of the palette are hit with elements of sweet (Mango), sour (Orange), bitter (Noble Fir) salt & umami (Seaweed). We also created sensation by hitting the nerves with subtle numbing Green Sichuan Pepper & tangy Bay Leaf. As a final twist we also wanted to involve the most important element of all – the public. We sent out 3x variations to over 400 of the general public, to which they fed back. Through their feedback we shaped the final balance and body, creating a gin truly developed with the people for the people.
What can people expect and experience if they visit the distillery for a tour and tasting?
We are proud to welcome over 25,000 visitors a year at the distillery and I think that is in part driven by the fact we have a grain to glass process to share, which is both rare and interesting to our visitors. Our 5 star awarded tours (Tripadvisor, VisitScotland etc) share many of the secrets of our processes and is always delivered with good humour and as much detail as our visitors want. At the end you also get 3x perfect serves with three of our spirits, which delivers great value, great taste and a refreshing end to the tour. The modern distillery building itself (built by our Founder's father) sits on a hillside and offers up 180 degree views across our mountains and forests. You can enjoy all this while kicking back and enjoying our tasty spirits. We are also really proud of our staff - super friendly and knowledgable they bring a welcoming and warm atmosphere.
Finally we also offer up our famous Gin Escape experience. You’ll get our boots on and help us forage for the botanicals that make our Hills & Harbour Gin special. When we return you can help us make some tasty and vibrant gin cocktails using the foraged botanicals.
What have been the biggest challenges and achievements?
We are delighted to have won the below awards, but all told after nearly 5 years in business we are most proud that we now employ 12 people and have crafted spirits that add value and taste to the craft spirit scene and, fly the flag for our innovation Scottish spirit.
‘Scottish Gin Distillery of the year’ - Scottish Gin Award 2020
‘Scottish Gin Destination of the year’ - Scottish Gin Award 2019
‘Best Scottish London Dry Gin’ - World Gin Awards 2019
‘Double Gold’ - San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2018
How would you describe your gins in 3 words?
Tasty. Honest. Innovative.
What's your favourite way to drink your gins?
We are big believers in keeping it simple. In our view the best spirits can hold their own in simple drinks, and don’t need to rely on creating a drink that qualifies for 1 of you 5 a day! ;) So, for our gins, serve over plenty of ice with a simple tonic. Equally, our gins are vibrant and versatile, so feel free to get creative and add your own garnish.
What gins would you always have on your gin shelf (other than your own of course!)?
I have always enjoyed a vibrant Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin.
What's next for Crafty Distillery - any exciting plans?
Our plans are to continue to build a strong reputation in the market as a distillery that crafts products that are big in taste, integrity and innovation. We’re confident our real and inclusive approach will earn us a place within folks' hearts, minds and palettes both here in the UK and beyond, and with our continued focus on improving the user experience and reducing our environmental impact we are excited by the innovations that will drive that. Our new bottle is a great example of that, and by next year our distillery will also have a massive solar plant on site which should supply most of the power we need.
As for spirits, we have already started Single Malt Scotch Whisky production which we are extremely excited about.
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