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Highland Liquor Company, in Ullapool, Ross-shire, defies turbulent Covid-19 pandemic effects to increase turnover and hire more staff

By Philip Murray

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Helen Chalmers and Robert Hicks.
Helen Chalmers and Robert Hicks.

A North distillery’s gin sales proved just the tonic during a turbulent Covid-hit 2020 – after the company saw its turnover soar seven-fold in the past year and was able to hire extra staff.

The Highland Liquor Company, which is based in Ullapool and run by Robert Hicks and Helen Chalmers, is perhaps best known for its batch distilled Seven Crofts and Fisherman’s Strength gins, and has gained recognition from some of this country’s most high profile bars.

And, despite the challenges faced over the past 12 months, it has capitalised on strong consumer sales, new product launches and the opening of a new shop to thrive during 2020.

With the arrival of the coronavirus and closure of the hospitality industry, the company was able to increase its direct to consumer online sales and through stockists like Harvey Nichols and a strong range of distributors.

In September they opened their own Bottle Shop on Ullapool’s West Argyle Street, with tourists and locals alike enjoying the opportunity to buy unique bottlings, local beers and food.

Such developments have meant that the company’s employees have doubled from three members of staff in 2019 to six full time equivalent positions.

Helen Chalmers said: “This has been an incredibly challenging year for so many businesses.

“We really value our work with the on-trade and it has been particularly dreadful to see the closures in what is such a creative and energetic industry.

“We’re lucky that we’ve been able to maintain and grow consumer sales over this period but most of all, we’re proud that, as one of Scotland’s most remote distilleries, we’ve received incredibly widespread recognition.

“We were thrilled to receive plaudits from the World Gin Awards and then later the Newcomer of the Year at the Scottish Gin Awards. Like so many others, we’re looking forward to 2021 and welcoming back our friends in the hospitality sector.”

This year the company has also been able to supply hand sanitizer to local front line workers free of charge as well as selling the sanitiser further afield.

As well as Seven Crofts and Seven Crofts Fisherman’s Strength, the distillery also produces a limited run of Experimental Gins and The Ullapool Gin, which is only available in the village or through Highland Liquor Company’s online store.

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