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Caithness graduate is the toast of Dunnet Bay Distillers after creating a new gin flavour

By Gordon Calder

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A GLASS is being raised to a Caithness brewing and distilling graduate after he created a new flavour of gin for Dunnet Bay Distillers.

Craig Chambers, who is 23 and comes from Thurso, has been involved with the company – formed by Martin and Claire Murray – since he was a teenager and now he has produced a new flavour called Rock Rose Gin Smoked Orange.

Initially, it will be available only in a limited quantity with just 600 bottles being released on July 5. In November, a significantly greater number of bottles will be on sale directly from the distillery as the gin becomes part of the core range. It costs £35.

The Smoked Orange flavour was created by Craig Chambers from Thurso
The Smoked Orange flavour was created by Craig Chambers from Thurso

Craig worked part-time in the business and was involved with bottling operations, tour guides and sales. He returned to the company as part of a full-time graduate placement scheme and was asked by Martin Murray, the master distiller, to come up with an entirely new gin flavour. The company is delighted with the result.

Craig, who gained his degree in brewing and distilling from Heriot-Watt University, said: "I have a passion for smoky, peaty whiskies and so it was a natural development to consider a smoky gin. I opted for Lapsang Souchong tea, making a distillate to introduce the smoky notes, and then experimented with various citrus ingredients. Lime and grapefruit were too tart. Sweet orange peel was just right, and I then enhanced the sweet citrus notes of the dried orange with tangerine sage, adding up to 150 grams of this herb, as well as pineapple sage and lemon verbena. These botanicals are grown by Hanna in the distillery's own garden. The gin also contains cassia, liquorice, water-mint, and bilberries." In the final trials, he discovered that adding cold brew tea to the liquid provided the perfect finishing touch.

Craig's career is taking off now but he nearly took a different path and initially applied to do a law degree courses but on a whim decided on brewing and distilling as an alternative. He has now created a new flavour of gin for the Dunnet distillery and when it is officially launched in the autumn he will be travelling to Patagonia in Argentina to expand his experience by working for a whisky distillery.

He said: "I've got Martin and Claire to thank for building my understanding of how the business runs and my university tutors to thank for inspiring me to pursue this as a career. Martin and Claire are an inspiration," said Craig.

Martin and Claire Murray with some of the award-winning spirits. Picture: Julie Fraser
Martin and Claire Murray with some of the award-winning spirits. Picture: Julie Fraser

Martin Murray said: "Craig has done a great job since he came in as a distiller and this gin is a cracker. It's a flavour profile that he identified as being missing from our range and he's delivered a gin perfectly in balance.

"We're proud as a business of the opportunities we've given people and there will be more to come with our future whisky distillery."

This new flavour brings the number of gins in the Dunnet Distillers range to nine.

As previously reported, planning permission has been granted to the company to convert the old mill at Castletown into a whisky distillery and visitor centre. The project is estimated to cost £4 and create 12 jobs.

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