Ice & Fire Distillery in Caithness

At Ice & Fire Distillery, a small team create a heavenly range of hand-crafted gin and rum in a small Highland Croft. We spoke to Jacquie Black who told us all about how this successful distillery in Caithness started, and found out how the area surrounding them adds a special element to their products.

As my brother knew so much about our croft, the hills, the botanicals, the heather, and how things tasted and smelt he developed all our recipes himself! So every recipe and every gin we have has elements from right here, on our land and around the countryside.

Ice and Fire Distillery in Caithness, Scotland

Q. How did Ice & Fire Distillery start?
A.
We started around 2018. My brother was a Game Keeper but he was sadly diagnosed with terminal cancer. We decided to start a new business which he could work around his illness. When we thought about opening our own gin company and of course him training as a distiller, he laughed. (Particularly as neither myself nor my husband drink alcohol!) However, after thinking about it for a week he was fully on board and keen to give it a go!

As my brother knew so much about our croft, the hills, the botanicals, the heather, and how things tasted and smelt he developed all our recipes himself! So every recipe and every gin we have has elements from right here, on our land and around the countryside.

We are a very small team with just the 3 of us really but we do have a few willing volunteers who help us with labelling and bottling when required.

Iain Black from Ice and Fire Distillery

Q. How long does it take to make your gin?
A.
To go through the stills, it usually takes around 24hours for one distillation to go through. We do this really slowly then we put it to mature, we don’t bottle immediately. Our Crofters Tears takes the longest to mature because the heather has quite an oily base and in fact, our last batch has been sitting for around 5 months. So, we can make it in 24hours but we allow it to mature for some time before we get to bottling, labelling and shipping out.

Crofters Tears from Ice and Fire Distillery in Caithness

Q. What is your personal favourite product and why?
A.
Crofters Tears, definitely because of the name. As we’re Crofters ourselves, it all came about as a bit of a joke and we started referring it to it as Crofters Tears. It quickly caught on and others started using the name too, so we just went with it and since, many have complimented us on the name.

Bottles from Ice and Fire Distillery

Q. What has been the biggest highlight since starting the company?
A.
We were recently voted the best craft gin in the UK by Gin & Tonicly (which is a website at https://www.ginandtonicly.com/) for our Crofters Tears and that was a fantastic accolade for us. We really were delighted with the win and we didn’t even enter ourselves, it was all done by the Gin & Tonicly company and they had sampled lots of different UK craft gins and put us on top! It came as a huge surprise as we didn’t even know about it until a friend told us, it was fantastic.

Ice and Fire Distillery and Caithness Raiders Rum

Q. What one thing do you wish people knew about the business / industry?
A.
When we started making gin, I genuinely thought everyone made their own gin, I was completely naïve. I had no idea about contract distilling and third-party distilling. I think there is an awful lot of smoke and mirrors going on in the gin industry and so many who don’t make their own gin which we were very shocked to find out. We just thought everyone did it like us, by hand.

We do it all ourselves, we handpick the botanicals ourselves, we distil it here on the croft in our copper pot still, we do the bottling and labelling ourselves including the label design!

Often gins are referred to being “Scottish” gins but aren’t even made in Scotland which is a real shame but we are really lucky to have fantastic local gins that are thankfully, made locally!

Ice and Fire Distillery in the Scottish Highlands

Q. What makes your gin stand out?
A.
Provenance, the local aspect. We make it where we say we make it. We make our gin with the things we handpick ourselves, it is all about us and the way we live and where we live. All our ingredients are from the land around our house and we’re incredibly proud to be able to say that. That certainly makes it special for us and we hope it makes us and our products more genuine (and tasty!) for our customers.

Caithness Raiders Rum from Ice and Fire Distillery

Q. What is next for you?
A.
We are currently developing a range of gin liqueurs and have just finished designing 10 new labels. We also built 2 new, huge, polytunnels for lots of fruit and vegetables so we’re hoping to be successful in growing lots of produce in them (maybe not the more exotic fruits but we’re going to give them a go!). We are also planning a vodka too, so keep your eyes peeled!

To find out more about Ice & Fire Distillery or to sample some gin or rum for yourself, please head to https://www.iceandfiredistillery.com/

Shona LawranceBy Shona Lawrance
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.

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