Two years on from launching their joint venture, Roehill Springs Distillery, husband and wife team Duncan and Shirley Morrison are now busier than ever with their farm-based micro-distillery
Situated at Newtack Farm in Keith, Moray, the duo produce small-batch gins that capture the very best flavours that the Scottish Highlands has to offer.
Starting out with their Roehill Springs Gin No.5, which was released in August 2019, the distillery now also sells Roehill Springs Blue, a light and fruity gin that changes colour once a mixer is added.
Each bottle of gin is distilled, labelled, waxed and packaged by hand on-site at the farm which specialises in commercial beef and boasts with 50 suckler cows. It has been in the Morrison family for over 60 years and Duncan still runs it today.
To date, the couple have sold around 3,000 bottles of gin, averaging around 50 per week.
With business booming, Duncan and Shirley have their sights set on opening the distillery for gin tastings and tours in the not-so-distant future.
From whisky to gin
Duncan, 64, has lived on Newtack Farm all his life.
For 15 of those years, he worked as a stillman at a local whisky distillery and gained the Institute of Brewing and Distilling’s General Certificate in Distilling.
However, his admiration for gin was to take charge.
“Although I had an appreciation of a good malt whisky, I had also developed a love of gin,” he said.
“The idea of making my own gin began to take seed in my mind and the knowledge I gained from working in malt distilleries gave me the confidence to turn my thoughts into reality.
“At the end of 2018, I purchased a small 30-litre copper pot still as a Christmas present to myself and began trial distillations in my spare time.”
The whole idea behind our name came from the natural spring water that rises on Roehill, named after the roe deer that historically roamed freely on this land.”
Duncan put his new still to good use from the outset and began experimenting with different botanicals and berries to use in his very own gin.
Alongside Shirley, the couple found the perfect flavour profile for what became Roehill Springs Gin No.5, which is led by classic Juniper, followed by bold citrus and sweet floral notes.
Roehill Springs Distillery was born
Duncan had been self-employed for most of his working life on the family farm, so running a business was not something new or daunting to him.
“I enjoy being my own boss, and working on the farm gives me the freedom of working outdoors in the fresh air of the countryside,” Duncan said.
“Working in the gin distillery has given us the opportunity to meet and get to know lots of really lovely people.
“The distillery itself is based in a converted disused farm building on the site. And the whole idea behind our name came from the natural spring water that rises on Roehill, named after the roe deer that historically roamed freely on this land.”
Their first product is a London Dry style of gin, “created with the gin connoisseur in mind”.
Duncan added: “Roehill Springs Gin No.5 is made with the finest traditional and locally foraged botanicals and our own natural spring water.
“We also have Roehill Springs Blue, which is a colour changing gin. The addition of butterfly pea flower gives the gin its blue colour, which changes to pink when a mixer is added.
“All our gin is distilled slowly in a traditional still which, with its large column and built-in vapour basket, gives the vapour lots of copper contact – stillmen call this ‘the copper kiss’ – which makes for a lighter, fruitier gin.”
Award wins and returning customers
The couple’s passion for their firm and products has not gone unnoticed, for they have been commended by not only customers but also at international drinks competitions.
Duncan said: “We have been overwhelmed by the wonderful feedback we have received since our launch.
Shirley and I are always working on something new, trying out different botanicals and experimenting with different berries.”
“Shirley and I have many returning customers, which is our greatest reward, and were finalists in The Scottish Gin Awards 2020.
“We were also awarded a silver medal in the International Spirits Challenge 2021 and have most recently been awarded a gold medal in the International Wine and Spirits Competition 2021.
“The pair of us are very proud of our business and what we have achieved in such a short time with a team of only two.”
The only way is up for the duo, who are planning to launch their third gin in the coming months, as well as offer tours and visits at the distillery.
“Shirley and I are always working on something new, trying out different botanicals and experimenting with different berries,” Duncan added.
“With that said, we are about to launch our Navy Strength Gin, which is a 57% ABV and perfect for cocktails or a classic gin and tonic.
“As well as this, we plan to offer tours and tastings in the very near future (if everything continues to go well).
“The pair of us are passionate about our local community and supporting local and hope to continue to work together with other small businesses to support and promote each other.”