With nothing but a tight budget and sheer determination, two businessmen from Inverness have opened what could potentially be the smallest distillery in Scotland.
Daniel Campbell and Adam Dwyer have a combination of 42 years in the catering industry, with Daniel working in his family business, Cobbs, based on the shores of Loch Ness in Drumnadrochit, since the age of 10.
Knowing the area was renowned for illicit distilling, which was rife in Scotland from the late 17th Century to the early 19th Century, around Loch Ness, the 34-year-old decided to search for the nearest illicit still during the first lockdown.
This turned out to be four miles from the now gin distillery, known as Great Glen Distillery, and is the most famous site in Scotland for illicit distilling.
This discovery captivated his mind and inspired him to start the project. Daniel came to Adam, 38, with the idea, and Adam knew from the outset that he wanted to get on board.
The pair were aware there was the opportunity to open a distillery in Drumnadrochit, so began constructing it.
Daniel said: “Both Adam and I have made Great Glen Distillery into reality. With a tight budget, we have built the distillery on our own during lockdown, from the signage and flooring to the painting.
“Nestled in the mighty Great Glen, the distillery is in the heart of Loch Ness in Drumnadrochit (right beside the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre).
“Our main ingredient – the water – comes from a borehole that is 70-feet deep next to Loch Ness. It’s the cleanest and purest of all waters.
“As you walk into the distillery, there is our 200-litre still, called Jacqueline, set amongst a retail area and small cash counter. Then in the back, we have our fermentation tanks, mixing vessel, bottles and bonded warehouse.”
Daniel says they can produce 250 bottles per week in the 28 square metre distillery, using the still that was named after his late mother.
The first 100 bottles produced were lowered to the bottom of Loch Ness and hoisted back up. These will be available for £129 as they come with a branded box, certificate, two 100ml bottles and two glasses.
All other bottles will be available at a cost of £43.50.
He added: “First, we make our own wash using local malted barley and let it ferment. Once that’s finished, it goes through three separate distillations.
“In the last run, our heavy botanicals are steeped overnight in the spirit before finally being distilled with our light botanicals in our gin basket, which produces our gin distillate.
“This allows for a fresher and lighter tasting gin, with the vapour drawing the flavours when it passes through.
“We have got all relative licences from HM Revenue and Customs and have now produced over 100 gin bottles. The first 100 will each come with a signed certificate by the head of the Loch Ness Project, Adrian Shine, as they were lowered to the bottom of Loch Ness and raised back up afterwards.”
Branching out to vodka and rum
While they are now considered the smallest distillery in Scotland, Daniel and Adam hope to expand and lose this title over time.
“We would hope in a few years not to be the smallest distillery,” Daniel said.
“Adam and I want our spirit to become a really well-known gin in Scotland and the whole of the UK, following in the footsteps of great gin producers such as Dunnet Bay and Harris Gin.
“The next steps for us will be branching out to do vodka and rum, then do experimental and innovative things in the spirit market.”