Dunnet Bay Distillers

Dunnet Bay Distillers is a bold new venture founded and run by husband and wife team Martin and Claire Murray.

The new distillery, based at Dunnet Head, Caithness produces artisanal gin flavoured with local botanicals under the brand name Rock Rose Gin.

Martin, whose career was in the Aberdeen oil and gas industry when their adventure began, has a Master’s degree in process engineering, and is studying towards a PhD in brewing and distillation. Described as ‘the mastermind behind all things technical and innovative’, Martin enjoys a hands-on role within the distillery.

In order to build their dream, the Murrays sought assistance from various local sources, including the north Highland Regeneration Fund (NHRF) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE)

NHRF provided assistance in the form of advice and guidance throughout the formation of the company and its premises, as well as financial support. The planning application for the distillery was given the green light in October 2013, and when the foundations were completed in early 2014, it was with NHRF Chairman John Thurso, MP, and NHRF Director Nigel Lowe in attendance.

“The NHRF team was really helpful and encouraging throughout the application process and beyond,” said Mr Murray. “Going into business for ourselves for the first time – and building a whole new premises – was a daunting experience.

“The team were highly supportive the whole way through, and I felt they really understood what we were trying to achieve. We wouldn’t be at the stage we are at if it wasn’t for the support from NHRF.”

When Rock Rose was officially launched in August 2014, it was to great local and critical acclaimThe first batch, approximately 650 bottles, sold out within 40 hours of being available to pre-order. By the end of August 2014, almost half of the second batch had also sold, despite not having been officially released.

At this early stage, the Dunnet duo were overwhelmed with the phenomenal success and popularity of Rock Rose, which had sparked interest in 16 countries world-wide – including Belgium and Australia – and were already talking of expansion.

Since the launch, Rock Rose has continued to see global success, and have employed both a brand ambassador and a ‘marketing guru’ to help lighten the load.

The new micro-distillery opened its doors to the public for the first time in October 2014, when Claire and Martin hosted Caithness Chamber of Commerce’s AGM, where guests had an exclusive tour of the venue, guided by the couple themselves, and were treated to a tantalising taster.

The artisan gin came runner up in the Scotland Speciality Food Show for the ‘Best New Product’ category, and won ‘Best New Product Launch’ for its unique and quirky bottle design at the World Gin Awards.

In January, Rock Rose came 4th in a survey searching for the UK’s favourite gin.

Closer to home, Dunnet Bay Distillers teamed up with local confectioners Caithness Chocolate to produce a special Rock Rose chocolate, which was launched just in time for Christmas. They have also collaborated with local tea room Cups, in Scrabster, who have made cakes both for the café and special occasions flavoured with the gin.

In December 2014, Claire and Martin made a move into the craft gin experience market with the launch of their ‘Gin Tailors Club’ – and exclusive group, members of which will see a range of luxurious benefits.

Members are able to vote on their favourite seasonal botanicals, which will be transformed in to a limited edition gin only available to members. A 50cl bottle of the bespoke, hand-crafted gin will be delivered directly to members once a quarter. The package also includes a 10% discount on products through their website, a private tour of the distillery for two people, and access to an exclusive members-only area of the website.

Going forward, Dunnet Bay Distillers aim to open their doors to the public for tours of the distillery and will offer opportunities for guests to create their own unique Rock Rose edition, with their own botanicals.

With these plans in the pipeline, and the ambition to branch out in to vodka production on the horizon, the business continues to thrive. With the continued support of the local community, and the outpouring of appreciation from gin lovers across the globe, the sky’s the limit for Caithness’ latest asset.

Dunnet Bay Distillers have, in a short timeframe, proved themselves to be an integral part of the local economy, and have returned the support and enthusiasm received by pouring the fruits of their labour back in to the community which helped them on the road to success.

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