What started as a hobby is now a fully fledged business, producing handcrafted, high quality spirits, from a purpose-built base in Orkney’s east mainland.
And for Stuart and Adelle Brown, the launch of the Deerness Distillery is just the first step.
It has been an incredibly busy few years for the couple. As well as raising their three children, they’ve managed to move to Orkney, set-up the business, construct a fantastic distillery, literally in their back garden, and launch their signature gin.
Oh, did we mention they squeezed in the production of a new vodka too?
‘It is a bit of a balancing act,’ said Stuart. ‘It’s a small operation and we do everything by hand, but it’s something we really enjoy doing. We’re learning about the business aspect of things as we go as we’ve never done something like this before, but it’s early days and we’re just enjoying being a craft distillery.’
The word ‘artisan’ gets thrown around a lot in the food and drink industry but it’s one that really fits the operation at the Deerness Distillery. The entire process is done by the team of two – from distilling, bottle washing and bottling; to labelling, boxing and delivery. It’s a unique selling point that Stuart is very proud of.
‘I think a lot of people like that hand crafted aspect. It shows that a lot of care and attention has gone into producing the drink they have in their hand, and that means a lot. We just want to work as much as we can to get as many bottles as possible produced so more people can try our products.’
The Deerness Distillery has two stills at the moment, with one on the way. ‘Matilida’ is a 300 litre still and it’s used for the signature ‘Sea Glass Gin’. ‘Walt’ is a smaller still and it produces the ‘Into the Wild Vodka’. The third still will be called ‘Zing’ (the eagle-eyed will notice the nod to Stuart’s Antipodean heritage)!
Both spirits were launched in Orkney and northern Scotland in May and have been very well received in local shops. ‘We were delighted to get the bottles out into the stores so that people could finally try them,’ said Stuart. ‘There was a lot of testing and experimentation before we were really happy with the gin and vodka. We actually produced six different gins using various botanicals, and then we had tasting events with some local folk, just to see where the spirits sat in terms of people’s palates.’
There could be plenty more tasting evenings to come too, with plans in place for more products in the future. ‘We’re going to be doing seasonal gins, using botanicals when they’re in season and at their freshest, and we’re going to be doing some rum later in the year too. We’ve also been working on liqueurs as well,’ said Stuart.
The distillery could become a major attraction for tourists too. It’s big enough to house a viewing area and Stuart and Adelle hope to include a tasting table and small shop as well. With two whisky distilleries, two breweries and now three gin producers in Orkney, a food and drink trail could bring plenty of visitors to the islands.
‘It’s very much a case of ‘more to come’ from us,’ said Stuart. ‘So far the support from local people, the shops, retailers, Orkney Food and Drink and the local Council, has been fantastic and we’re proud to be part of the community here. We’re going to keep learning, keep experimenting and keep distilling. Hopefully plenty of people will join us on that journey.’
With the success experienced by the dedicated Deerness Distillery team so far, we don’t think that will be a problem.
The Digital Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.