Last year for International Scottish Gin Day, you may remember I collaborated with Rock Rose Gin and nabbed a rare opportunity to talk with Martin Murray of Dunnet Bay Distillers about their renowned range of gins. Rare opportunity is an appropriate phrase, as Martin and Claire are so busy with their business, that spare time is sparse indeed. If you fancy watching that video first then you can do here.
This year, we wanted to collaborate again, so decided to do the same. It’s always nice to snatch a moment to catch up, and of course Dunnet Bay are releasing more products, and also taking on a rather large project. All in all, there is a lot to talk about.
As you may already have figured, Dunnet Bay are very proactive. They not only produce seasonal gins, but other recipes too. They’ve recently add a new gin to their core range, a Smoked Orange Gin, which has a fantastic autumnal quality to it. This gin was originally a limited edition, but proved so popular that they took it on permanently only recently, on the 26th September.
They sent me a little to try, along with some other new launches, their RTD canned G&T which has taken some four years to develop and includes Cushiedoos tonic, as well as an orange peel distillate to make their can the perfect serve. They also very kindly sent me a bottle of their RTS Vesper, a blend of Rock Rose and Dunnets Holy Grass Vodka, with a touch of British Vermouth. RTS is Ready To Serve, the difference being RTDs can be drank as is, an RTS for example can be something like a ready made cocktail that requires chilling and serving with a garnish.
So, with so much going on, it made sense to organise a catch up with Martin to get the lowdown on everything that’s happened since last time, to taste their new products and to see what the future holds.
In the opening of the call, Martin was sat, with a wall covered in plans, a hint of the updates to come. We chatted about International Scottish Gin Day, on it’s fourth year, and congratulated Founders Martin and Natalie Reid, who also run the Gin Cooperative, and this year launched their new gin competition the Gin Cooperative Awards. Having been on a judging panel, I can vouch for the care and attention in the detail they went to. All judges received a booklet outlining the philosophy, what they are doing differently and a thoroughly detailed judging structure which I found really interesting, something to hang my knowledge on to come to score decisions. I loved how the direction shaped my ideas. Martin, having entered Rock Rose, can vouch from the other side of things and credited them for the organisation. Well done guys! Praise all round!
Then we had a tasting of the Smoked Orange Gin. It is a real achievement with the flavour profile. Both orange and smoke are easy things to overdo but this gin has a fantastic balance of these two bold flavours done with a gentle, elegant complexity. Power, but not too much. Martin explained that the original recipe was created by a Graduate Distiller called Craig Chambers who was experimenting, and they were so impressed they suggested he follow it through with recipe development, and he took the process from start to finish. Fantastic work so well done to you Craig, and well done to Martin and the team for recognising the potential and supporting. As Martin explains, it was complicated business. They had to experiment with lots of different ways to incorporate smoke, eventually deciding on lapsang souchong tea, and likewise what orange to use and how. Getting the balance right took time and I think that shows in the final product which to me evokes marmalade and sweet marinade, especially with the herbal complexity that comes through. It is delicious in the glass and I don’t know how long my stock will last, but I would love to save a little for the Christmas ham.
We also look at the canned RTD G&T, another tricky one to get right, and the Bottled Vesper, which is just brimming with bright, fresh and slightly sweet character and requests apple garnish. I’ve been seeing more RTS Vespers on the market recently and was really pleased to see Dunnet Bay launch this. It’s a great way to showcase two of their products, the Holy Grass Vodka and Rock Rose Gin, to showcase both profiles and create a sense of Caithness in the cocktail.
We also had a long chat about the new premises, how plans are going, the challenges renovating a listed building and the rewards. This is a wonderful project, restoring a shell of a mill that Martin has been dreaming of restoring since he was a teenager. The plans for whisky are going well and we had a great discussion around the farming aspect, which he is keenly researching at the moment, looking into heritage barleys and yeasts. What a fantastic project to watch unfold. It’s all very exciting.
And given the floor for any final thoughts, Martin snatched the opportunity to talk about the importance of support smaller businesses, now more than ever. It’s important at the best of times, and even more so in the here and now.
We had a lovely natter, and I wanted to include some wording as I know some people would rather read than watch. The thing is, this only touches the surface. So why don’t you fix yourselves a nice drink and settle in to watch the video.
Happy International Scottish Gin Day. Eyes down for the hashtag #ISGD. You can also keep up with events on the International Scottish Gin Day Twitter Page.