Orkney is at the forefront of the move towards net zero, with innovative renewable energy projects and low-carbon initiatives taking place across the islands.
It’s perhaps not surprising then that many of our food, drink, and crafts makers have embraced a climate-conscious approach to their business.
If you and your loved ones share this ethos, then perhaps you’d like to pick up a green gift from Orkney this Christmas. Here are some sustainable suggestions from our island makers.
Orkney is home to three fabulous gin companies, and they all forage for fresh ingredients right here in the islands.
The Orkney Distillery uses angelica in its Kirkjuvagr Origin Gin, a botanical that the Vikings brought to Orkney and can still be found growing wild here today. The Distillery works with the Kirkwall-based Agronomy Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands to grow its blend of Orcadian botanicals, including ramanas rose and burnet rose.
The Deerness Distillery has its own polytunnel where it grows botanicals including limes, lemons, oranges, mint, rosemary, lavender, and much more - perfect for its current range of gins and special editions planned for the future.
Across the Churchill Barriers, the Orkney Gin Company uses as many hand-picked and home-grown Orcadian botanicals as possible, including heather flower, crow berries, rhubarb, rose petals and rose hips. Ingredients used by our ancestors and now found in award-winning gins.
A good cheese board is a must for Christmas, and The Island Smokery’s range of smoked Orkney cheddar is a perfect addition to any selection. The cheese is smoked using wood shavings for around four hours each time, and this is where the sustainability aspect comes in. The wood used for the smoking process is supplied by local instrument and furniture makers, made up of shavings of ash wood amongst others.
This unique blend provides a special mix of smoking material whilst essentially using up a waste product. The ash wood also provides a more delicate smoke than oak, adding to the delicious and distinctive flavours of The Island Smokery range.
Auskerry is a small island at the eastern edge of our archipelago and is home to a flock of the famous North Ronaldsay seaweed-eating sheep. They thrive on the island, which provides plenty of seaweed all-year-round and flowers to feast on during the summer months. The team at Isle of Auskerry tend to the flock and hand-clip their fleeces during shearing season to make their wide range of wool products, including blankets, rugs, and more.
The sheep live free from chemicals so the wool is organic, and much of the processing is done in Auskerry itself. Each product bought helps keep the flock sustainable, and conserves this special breed into the future.
Bere is an ancient form of barley that has been grown in Orkney for centuries. These days it’s milled at the Barony Mill in the West Mainland, and you can find it in delicious breads and biscuits, as well as a unique range of beers from the Swannay Brewery.
Combining their modern brewing talents with this historical grain, the brewery’s Scapa Bere is a light amber beer that gets its flavour and colour from the 100% bere malt used. The Orkney-grown barley adds a minerally, almost salty, flavour. E.S Bere and Table Bere make up the collection (keep your eye on the Swannay Brewery website to find out when these two beers become available again).
An uninhabited island in Orkney is the last place you’d expect to find a winery, but the Orkney Wine Company has always taken a unique approach to crafting its range of wines and liqueurs. This family-run business produces and bottles its wine at its Lamb Holm base, next door to the beautiful Italian Chapel.
Orkney-grown ingredients are used as much as possible – its Orkney White is made using local elderflower, gooseberry, rosehips, rhubarb, and barley. There are plenty of other products to try too; the Tattie Wine is handmade using three Orkney-grown potatoes and local barley, and comes matured in Orkney bere barley whisky casks.
Centuries ago, crofters across the islands used whatever they could get their hands on to fashion furniture for their houses. For the classic Orkney chair, straw from the land formed the seat, the backs and hoods, and it was driftwood from the seas that provided the frame.
Nowadays, Fraser Anderson from Orkney Hand Crafted Furniture keeps this tradition alive, collecting driftwood from the shore before letting the Orkney elements wash and dry the pieces. Then he creates chairs, tables, and more from each piece, producing wholly unique and beautiful furniture fit for homes around the world.
This is just a small selection of the incredible range of products and gift ideas on offer from Orkney's talented creative community. Browse our Shop Online page for more products from our Taste of Orkney and Creative Orkney members.