Dunnet Distillery Puts Caithness On The Map

Well, the holiday is over and I can admit to having had a wonderful, relaxing summer. No tropical island for me; but there were a couple of trips away and some quality time spent with my family. It was even sunny… bonus!

But it’s all over now and like many others I’m getting back into the swing of things as the sun slowly gives way to the rain and cold of an impending autumn. This week, my article is a review of a product that has shown just how fantastic online marketing and networking can be.

gin, rock rose gin, rock rose, spirits, alcohol
A first batch bottle at Dunnet Bay with Dunnet Head, the most northerly point in mainland Britain, in the background.

Earlier in the year I met Claire and Martin Murray at an informal Highland Social local business meeting, they were setting up a gin distillery not far from me in the far north of Scotland and were starting to let the world know about their vision. Intent on using plants from the area around the distillery, Rock Rose Gin promised to be something special, and as they talked us through the process and how they came to find their feet, everyone in the room knew that Dunnet Bay Distillers was a company to watch. Passion and enthusiasm have given way to hard graft and, despite setbacks, the first batch of this hand-crafted Scottish gin hit the shelves in late August.

The most northerly gin distillery on mainland Britain aims to make around 700 bottles in each batch of gin. Flavoured with locally foraged botanicals, which include the rhodiola rosea, from which Rock Rose gin found its name, as well as juniper, sea buckthorn, rowan berries, blaeberries, cardamom, coriander seeds and verbena, the spirit is distilled in a beautiful hand-made copper still named Elizabeth.

Thanks to some wonderful social media interaction, and an on the ball marketing campaign, it soon became apparent that Rock Rose gin was going to be a sell-out… and all before anyone had tasted a drop. Gin is having a renaissance and, with gin bars gaining in popularity, it seemed that a small hand-crafted gin from the lands beyond the Highlands was big news. So much so that within 48 hours of the first batch going on sale it had sold out.  Luckily subscribers to the distiller’s newsletter were given the chance to order, and I managed to bag my bottle… despite being in Wales at the time and with very dodgy internet connections!

What makes this gin special, to me, is the way it is presented. Yes, looks aren’t everything, but it’s nice to have a product that stands out. Rock Rose gin is presented in a lovely ceramic bottle, which makes a change from all the glass bottles on the shelves, however, the way it is matched with the label, to me, makes the presentation something that stands out. A gorgeous, glossy, raised vintage-style label design is set on a matt background in hues of cream and muted blue. This bottle would make a beautiful gift for any gin-lover.  Each of the bottles has a handwritten section stating vintage, batch, bottle number and distiller on the reverse label and the cork stopper is topped off with a wax seal. Those of us lucky enough to find ourselves in possession of a bottle of the first batch were also treated to a lovely chocolate by the Caithness Chocolate company.

Dunnet Head, Dunnet, Scotland, rocks, sea, seascape, Caithness
The beautiful sea around Dunnet Bay

Why, you may ask, should I be reviewing this on a blog that is mainly about editing and freelance life? Well, a husband and wife team have created something really special, in a geographical area that to many people seems isolated, and yet through great marketing, attention to detail and a personal face to the brand they have caught the imagination of a great many people. Their promotional material is spot on and above all they are approachable. And that is what it’s all about… getting out there, getting found and showing your passion to the world.

As for the gin? Whether I know someone or not, my reviews are always honest, and I have to say that really, this is one of the nicest gins I have tasted in a while. It’s up there with my favourite gins, Juniper Green Organic gin and Caorunn. The spirit is neither harsh nor insipid, it’s strong (41.5%) but perfectly balanced and has a lovely rounded flavour that will lend itself to cocktails or being drunk on its own, perhaps with a splash of tonic and a twist of lemon. It also makes a cracking martini.

The batches of Rose Rock will change every year due to the botanicals being locally sourced but, if Claire and Martin can keep the to the quality of the first batch, I expect that the Dunnet Bay Distillery will become known as a provider of some of the best gin in Britain.

So, to end this review I thought I’d give a little twist on how to serve this gin. In appreciation of the name Rock Rose, I created my own little tipple… a Gin and Rose Tonic.

Take 1 or 2 measures of Rock Rose gin

 Pour into a highball glass, tumbler or jam jar half filled with ice-cubes

 Fill to the brim with Fever-Tree tonic water (or another premium brand)

 Finally add a very small drop of Rose Extract (it’s very strong, so less is more)

Give it a swirl and you have a lovely floral tipple

(If you feel fancy why not freeze some rose petals in mineral water in an ice-cube tray and add one or two to your glass?)

You can follow the company on Twitter @RockRoseGin, on Facebook as Rock Rose Gin and via the newsletter on their website rockrosegin.co.uk … just tell them I sent you.

A perfect martini

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