Martin Murray is the Co-Founder of Dunnet Bay Distillery in Caithness, which he set up with his wife Claire in 2014. The couple launched Rock Rose Gin to critical acclaim earlier this year and the gin was recently named in the Top 50 Food and Drink Products in Britain at the Great Taste Awards.
Most recently the couple have added a Navy Strength Gin and a unique Holy Grass Vodka to the portfolio…here Martin tells us a little more about his story, the important role the local environment plays in the production of Rock Rose Gin and how best to enjoy it!
How did you come to be making gin?
I actually learned distillation at Heriot Watt University when I was studying for my Masters in Chemical Engineering, before starting a career in the oil and gas industry, which I did for the next 10 years.
It was actually in 2011 when I finally took the decision to rekindle my real passion for brewing and distilling, a move which also meant I could spend more time in Caithness with Claire and our family.
Once I returned to Caithness, Claire and I began researching the potential possibilities and in 2012 we took the decision to create one of our favourite drinks – gin, and there the Rock Rose Gin story began.
The gin is produced in a very beautiful part of Scotland – what influence does the local environment have on your products?
It’s hugely influential. With Rock Rose Gin we wanted to create a gin that showcases the heritage and provenance of Caithness. We hand forage botanicals, such as Sea Buckthorn and Rowan Berries, from the local cliffs and forest to create our unique Rock Rose Gin taste.
Perhaps the most significant of these is the Rhodiola rosea (a rose in the rocks), which was discovered our first botanical forage along the Caithness cliffs and which adds a delicate floral note to the gin. In fact, it’s such a a precious plant that was once pillaged by the Vikings who believed it would give them extra strength and make them live to 200!
Are there any particular foods that pair well with gin?
I really enjoy seafood with our gin. We recently tried a Rock Rose infused salmon dish and it was lovely!
How would you suggest serving the gin to enjoy it at its best?
Our signature serve is Fever Tree Tonic and toasted rosemary; it’s definitely my favourite way to drink it. Alternatively, try it with Fever Tree Tonic and a slice of orange peel.
Any unusual facts about the business that you would like to share with readers?
It took about 18 months, 80 botanicals and 55 experiments, to perfect the Rock Rose Gin taste.
We have also just launched our first vodka, Holy Grass Vodka. As with Rock Rose Gin, we took inspiration from our local environment, as Holy Grass was once grown on the Thurso River Banks. A celebration of local produce and ingredients, the spirit is also infused with a carefully crafted vapour of Highland apples and apple juice, to complement the sweetness of the Holy Grass.
We have also devised a secret and completely unique way to distil the vodka, using Elizabeth, our traditional copper pot still, and Caithness stone.
Find out more about Dunnet Bay Distillery here: www.dunnetbaydistillers.co.uk