This article first appeared in our COP26 issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 05 November 2021. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
The UK’s most northerly mainland distillery is situated beyond the Highlands in Caithness, just three miles from Dunnet Head, on one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.
Claire and Martin Murray, co-founders of Dunnet Bay Distillers, host events to encourage visits to talks, tours and tastings of their Rock Rose Gin and Holy Grass Vodka at the distillery’s five-star visitor centre.
‘We want visitors to experience for a brief visit what we experience every day’, Claire explains: ‘pure air, beautiful beaches, the bounty of nature, rich history and, of course, delicious gin.’
The remote and rugged landscape is captured in the spirits thanks to a strong focus on provenance; the gin is named after its key botanical, Rhodiola rosea – ‘a rose in the rocks’ – which adds a delicate floral note. The vodka is named Holy Grass in honour of the main botanical note used for flavour.
Many of the spirits’ botanicals are sustainably foraged, while several others are grown in the distillery’s own garden under the watchful eye of the head gardener, Hanna.
Other ingredients are sourced from local Scottish firms. ‘All our drinks are made and bottled on the premises’, Claire tells us, ‘so we offer a real taste of coastal Scotland.’
Sensitivity to the local environment runs through the heart of the distillery. The business makes extensive use of solar panels and uses paper tape, composting, paper bags, recyclable tasting cups and an electric vehicle. Water to cool the spirits is taken from a nearby burn, and returned clean and cooled so it won’t adversely affect the environment.
Following its latest sustainability move, Claire and Martin are now the proud distillers of the first gin and vodka to come in fully recyclable pouches.
Rock Rose Gin and Holy Grass Vodka come in ceramic bottles that scream out for reuse – encouraged by the sale of pump heads on the Dunnet Bay Distillers website.
The tops of the bottles can also be removed using a diamond blade tile cutter, which gives them a more versatile use as plant pot or storage vessel. ‘We have even seen a slot cut into one to make it a piggy bank’, Claire tells us.
‘It is brilliant to see the bottles reused and I love it, but to be honest there are only so many Rock Rose candle holders, soap dispensers and vases you can have in your house!’, Claire continues. ‘As refill shops aren’t yet mainstream, we settled on creating a pouch to allow people to refill at home.’
Claire and Martin worked with a consultancy for two years to make sure the pouches could be recycled and were as environmentally friendly as possible. When they have been used, the pouches are simply returned to Dunnet Bay Distillers, where they are collected and returned to TerraCycle to be upcycled.
‘All the pouches are pre-printed with ‘FREEPOST Rock Rose’ to ensure they come back to us at no cost to the customer’, Claire explains. ‘They don’t even need to be placed in an envelope. It really couldn’t be easier for people to return the empty packaging, and we have found the return rate is very high.’
Refills are encouraged through a new Refill Rewards Club that launched in September 2020. The club provides a regular delivery of your favourite spirits at a frequency of your choosing. The pouch choice can be changed at any time, giving members the flexibility to try the full core range – Rock Rose Original, Pink Grapefruit Old Tom, Navy Strength, Citrus Coastal Edition, Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter Editions as well as Holy Grass Vodka – along with mixers and ‘one or two surprises’.
Members also get priority access to any new special releases, which are often hotly anticipated and have been known to sell out within days.
This year, CoolBrands® gave Rock Rose Gin a listing alongside the likes of Apple and Harley Davidson. ‘We were blown away to have been recognised as a CoolBrand and are absolutely delighted’, Claire tells us. ‘I think a combination of factors brought us to the attention of the panel: our sustainability ethos being one, our iconic bottle design and, of course, the delicious gin itself.’
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