What made you decide to create Rock Rose Gin?
Martin - I’ve always been passionate about brewing and distilling and even studied it at university! So it’s always something that’s been at the back of our minds, but the decision really came when we started to look at how we could spend more time together as a family. I had been working offshore in the gas and oil industry for a number of years and we have a young family, so something needed to change.
Claire - The inspiration was really our unique environment in the Scottish Highlands. We are both from Caithness originally, which is in the far, far North of Scotland, and we are surrounded by an amazing abundance of botanicals, along with the freshest air and water, that we thought could work brilliantly in a spirit. Gin was a natural choice, as it’s long been my tipple of choice!
How did you get from the idea to the finished product?
Martin - The first step was to do some more research into how we could use the botanicals on our doorstep to create something truly unique. We actually enlisted the help of a local ranger, Mary Legg, and a local herbalist, Brian Lamb, who did our first forage with us to help us identify the botanicals that could work really well in gin. Not that it was a quick process - we spent many months perfecting the Rock Rose Gin flavour profile - although all the tastings, over 50 in the end, were quite the highlight of our journey!
What are the distillery and distillation process like?
Martin – Our distillery is located on the North Coast in our home village of Dunnet. We have developed lovely gardens that provide botanicals for our seasonal editions and our garden editions. The distillery itself has been extended, so that we can keep up with demand and we’ll be moving into it in April.
We have a John Dore still and we use vapour infusion to create our wonderful gin. We also have a small electric hot still and a vacuum still for recipe development. We do all our bottling in-house and still hand wax and hand number all our bottles.
Claire – We also run regular tours from Easter to October and we are in the process of building a dedicated shop and visitor centre. It’s all go in Dunnet!
What's a normal day like for you a Dunnet Bay Distillery?
Martin - Busy, busy, busy! We are a small business, and our family is very young (1, 5, 7). This means we juggle all aspects of the business, whilst ensuring we get time as a family together. During a typical day we could be distilling, bottling, creating new gins or on a walk with the children collecting ingredients for trials.
How would you describe Rock Rose Gin in 3 words?
Martin – Refreshing, unique and moreish!
Claire – Delicate, complex and moreish!
What makes Rock Rose Gin different to other gins?
Martin - We believe we have a really unique flavour profile and have created a real taste of the Scottish Highlands. Our carefully selected botanicals include rowan berries, sea buckthorn and Rhodiola rosea, which which adds a delicate floral note to the gin. We slowly distill our gin using a traditional copper pot still and using a vapour infusion process, and as well as hand distilling the gin, we also hand-seal and sign all of the bottles before they leave the distillery.
What is your recommended serving & garnish for Rock Rose Gin?
Claire - We recommend it’s served with Fever-Tree Tonic and a sprig of toasted rosemary or a curl of orange peel.
What are your favourite gins (other than your own of course!)?
Martin – There are some great gins in the UK, with more appearing each month, but I do like Filliers Dry Gin from Belgium. I do like the flavour profile of Daffy's Gin and Porters Gin too.
What's next for Dunnet Bay Distillery & Rock Rose Gin?
Martin - It’s really exciting times for us at the distillery as we’ve recently been given planning permission to extend our storage space by over four times, meaning we can increased production significantly. We will also be opening a shop at the distillery later this year.
Plus, we are bringing back our Seasonal Editions which proved so popular last year and will have more than ever before available. In fact, we have just released our Spring Edition which features the same base botanicals as Rock Rose Gin but with some seasonal additions. For example, we’ve added gorse flowers, which smell deliciously of coconut, coltsfoot from the distillery gardens which give the gin a sweetness, and dandelion that brings lovely earthy liquorice flavours to perfectly balance the sweetness.