The UK’s most northerly distillery has doubled its workforce – to two – and laid down plans for a broader product range.
Its owners recently hired a Heriot-Watt University brewing and distilling graduate, 26-year-old Marc Watson, to help the business further grow its portfolio.
Mr Watson, whose university thesis was on gin, joins distillery manager Mark Turnbull – the other full-timer – and Luke Rees, who works for the distillery on a part-time basis.
The new recruit has already helped to mastermind the launch of Up Helly Aa Shetland Reel gin, named in honour of the world-renowned annual Viking fire festival.
A spokesman for SDC said there were other new products in the pipeline but it was too early to give any details.
It is less than two years since Shetland Distillery Company (SDC) launched its first drink, Shetland Reel gin.
Shetland Reel won a silver medal at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, one of the world’s biggest alcoholic drink industry events, after just six months on the market.
SDC’s second gin, Ocean Sent, featuring native Shetland seaweed, was launched late last year.
The company, which operates from a former RAF site at Saxa Vord on Unst, has also produced two locally bottled whiskies – the Shetland Reel blended and single malts.
Set up in 2013, the distillery is a partnership between Scotch whisky industry specialist Stuart Nickerson and his wife, Wilma, and Saxa Vord owners Frank and Debbie Strang, who transformed the site into an award-winning tourist resort.
Mr Nickerson said: “Marc has already proved himself to be a most welcome addition to the team at Saxa Vord and we hope he will be the linchpin in bringing further success to the distillery.”
The year-long appointment was made through the ScotGrad graduate placement programme, and part-funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the European Regional Development Fund.
HIE area manager Rachel Hunter said: “We are very pleased to have been able to support Marc’s appointment. Graduates bring fresh ideas, new skills and up-to-date knowledge to a business.
“This helps accelerate growth by focusing on specific projects to improve efficiency, identify new markets or develop new products.
“The ScotGrad programme also provides new opportunities for young people to work locally, and highlights to employers some real advantages of graduate recruitment.”
Mr Watson said: “It’s a very exciting time as we build on the success of the original Shetland Reel gin and bring new products to markets around the world.”