Catching up with the Dunnet Bay Distillers
NorthLink Ferries last caught up with Martin and Claire Murray of the Dunnet Bay Distillery in 2017. Much has happened to the creators of Rock Rose Gin since then. The company have come up with some fantastic new innovations, have been very proud to win new accolades and have struck new distribution deals. However, as before they are still delighted to work with a great local team and have not lost the personal touch when operating their business. Martin gave us the full story…
We have recently added our Refill Rewards Subscription Club, which has been the best seller on our website both last year and this year, so far! Our refill pouches are fully recyclable and weigh a lot less than bottles, so we are reducing emissions and transport while really improving our environmental performance.
Q. So, what has happened since 2017?
A. A lot has changed since 2017, I didn’t think it had until I really sat back and thought about it. In 2018 we opened a new Visitor Centre containing a shop and tasting room in a restored steading. The Visitor Centre has been VisitScotland 5-star accredited since we opened which is a great accolade. It’s been fantastic to see so many visitors come to the shop and experience a tour or tasting. In the off season, we use the space to host art exhibitions and special events for our local communities to come and enjoy.
With the business expanding it has led to us employing more staff and being able to offer new employment opportunities in the area. We have expanded our warehouse and now export into over 20 different markets, one of which is our national distribution deal with the United States. It is expected that in the next couple of years we will be covering almost 50 states, which is a huge deal for us and really exciting.
Lastly, on the product front, we have recently added our Refill Rewards Subscription Club, which has been unbelievably popular and the best seller on our website both last year and this year, so far! Our refill pouches are fully recyclable and weigh a lot less than bottles, so we are reducing emissions and transport while really improving our environmental performance.
Q. What is your personal favourite product and why?
A. I have two! My favourite overall is actually our Holy Grass Vodka, I love the taste, it’s unique and it’s the only grass vodka distilled in the UK. I also love its backstory! Holy Grass thought to be extinct was rediscovered growing in our local river by an amateur, self-taught, botanist called Robert Dick (1811 – 1866), who has a fascinating story. Holy Grass Vodka has just won the best UK flavoured Vodka at the World Vodka Awards, which is fantastic and a testament to its taste. My favourite gin is our Navy Strength, a real complex flavour and such a nice “nightcap”, on the rocks or neat.
Q. What has been the biggest highlight since starting the company?
A. For me personally, I was delighted to win the Institute of Directors Scotland, Director of the Year Award for innovation, last year. It was a great award to win, as I just see us as people trying to make their way in life, and to get that kind of recognition really was fantastic. For the business, it was winning Scottish Gin Distillery of the Year in 2019 and Best Distilled Product. We were up against some tough competition and big corporations so for us, our wee distillery up in Dunnet winning such an accolade was incredible and something the whole team can be very proud of. Another highlight has been seeing our team develop, watching colleagues go from strength to strength, something I never though of until I was running my own business.
Q. What one thing do you wish people knew about the business/industry?
A. I think there is a perception that we’re a big brand, we’re winning all these fantastic awards and really doing well but at the end of the day it’s just our small team who have been working hard since the beginning. For example, even today when people communicate with us via our social media channels it will be Claire, my wife, who they’ll be in contact with. So, it doesn’t matter how successful or large we seem, we’re still just a small family business.
Q. What makes Dunnet Bay Distillers stand out?
A. Our products and the taste. The beautiful and unique design of our bottles ensures they stand out from the crowd, it’s not difficult to spot a bottle of Rock Rose or Holy Grass on a shelf full of other bottles! Something else is that this really wasn’t a planned business, instead it’s just us and our desire to relocate back to our roots and make a living for ourselves. I think this story resonates with people as they realise how fragile the economy is, particularly in the North Highlands. To have been able to create jobs not only for Claire and myself but now for others in the community is fantastic and really appreciated locally.
Q. What is next for you?
A. Well, just before Christmas I did something a little bit crazy. We bought an old mill that is 200 years old and currently on the Buildings at Risk Register and classified as dilapidated. However, I love this building and our next challenge is how we can restore it and hopefully, move some of our business there and explore the opportunities that brings!
To keep up to date and explore more of the fantastic spirits on offer from Dunnet Bay Distillers or maybe even subscribe to their Refill Rewards Subscription Club, head to their website https://www.dunnetbaydistillers.co.uk/
A young quine with an energetic sense of adventure but dire sense of direction! Born and bred in the North East of Scotland with a long loving appreciation of the Scottish islands.