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90s Aberdeen clubbers may recognise a familiar face behind the bar at The Dutch Mill

Finlay Cran has been in the hospitality industry for the past 40 years. He's now the duty manager at The Dutch Mill Hotel bar. Photos by Kath Flannery
Finlay Cran has been in the hospitality industry for the past 40 years. He's now the duty manager at The Dutch Mill Hotel bar. Photos by Kath Flannery

Brothers, sisters, uncles, aunties, cousins and even wives, Finlay Cran’s “extended family” would suddenly grow every Friday and Saturday night when Aberdeen’s party scene boomed into life.

So desperate were people to jump the long queues and tear up the dance floor that they would often claim to be related to Finlay – the party king of the Aberdeen 90’s party scene –who was already inside manning the DJ decks or shaking things up behind the bar.

Community spirit: The Dutch Mill has been at the heart of the Aberdeen community for over 40 years.

“I had more relatives than I ever knew I had,” laughs Finlay who has spent the last 40 years working at some of Aberdeen’s best-loved nightspots including Mr G’s and Cocky Hunters.

Family run pub

Four decades on and the local legend, now aged 62, is showing no signs of taking a permanent disco nap as he’s now the duty manager behind the bar at The Dutch Mill Hotel.

“It’s great fun and I work with good people,” says Finlay.

The pink gin martini is refreshing on a warm (or dreich) summer evening.

“We’re very much the pub of the community.”

Mr G’s

Born and bred Aberdonian, Finlay got his first taste of the Granite City’s twilight industry while spinning the decks at Mr G’s, a nightspot in Chapel Street.

Finlay Cran is pictured on the right with Barry Codona at the nightclub awards in 1988.

“The first bar I worked in was Mr G’s in Aberdeen, it was quite famous in its day,” says Finlay.

“So I started off as a DJ there before moving behind the bar work when I went to college.”

Finlay enjoys a chin wag with the customers.

40 years of experience

From Franklyn’s and Bex to Smart Alex and Bud Bar, there’s hardly a nightspot that Finlay didn’t work in back in the day.

Too pretty to drink? We think not.

After briefly pressing pause to explore other ventures, Finlay’s glass is half full once again as he’s back pouring out his heart and soul at The Dutch Mill Hotel’s bar.

“I stopped and took a change of direction for a wee while and although I was enjoying what I was doing, I was at a loose end at nights and weekends so when I got an opportunity to come back to this line of work, I jumped at it, it’s great,” says Finlay.

The Dutch Mill champions some local drinks brands such as Dark Matter from Banchory and Ron Cabezon which is produced in Aboyne.

“Richard Nicoll who owns The Dutch Mill and the Atholl Hotel asked if I would come back and help him out for a while.

“Initially it was a temporary move but it’s turned out to be longer term which I’m happy with.”

Long-running pub

As a long-run family business, The Dutch Mill, just like Finlay, enjoys something of a legendary status in the city.

Espresso martinis prove to be a popular choice.

“The Dutch Mill has been in the same family ownership for, I think, 40 years as it was Richard’s grandfather Harry who ran it before Richard’s father Gordon and now Richard himself,” says Finlay.

The Dutch Mill has an excellent selection of rums including Twice Buried which is made in Aberdeenshire.

“A lot of the chains are very good but they miss that personal touch that The Dutch Mill has.”

Marquee space

In a classic case of turning lemons into lemonade, Finlay and the super friendly team played a masterstroke by transforming the car park at the front into a Mediterranean-style marquee bar area to accommodate social distancing rules.

Turning the car park into a marquee space has been a masterstroke.

“In reaction to the Covid we turned the car park into a bar and it’s worked really well, it’s a lovely bright and airy space,” says Finlay.

“When the sun shines it’s great and even when it’s raining, it’s quite relaxing listening to the sound of the rain on the roof.

The pub is warm and welcoming inside.

“It’s table service only outside and that works in as much as we can only seat so many people so it’s never overcrowded or that sense of being overcrowded.”

Sports screens

Far from pretentious, the undercover outside bar area and the interior bar are both super relaxed, attracting an eclectic mix of a crowd.

“We show all the sports like the football and traditionally The Dutch Mill was the place to go and watch rugby,” says Finlay.

The Dutch Mill also prides itself on its food menu like this delicious pan fried sea bass.

“There’s always some kind of sport on the TV and we do the live music at the weekend so hopefully there’s something for everyone.

“The Dutch Mill is just a comfortable place to be.

Whether you’re out for dinner, drinks or both, The Dutch Mill will sort you out.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re dressed up to go to a wedding or you’ve just been cleaning your car, you can wander in.”

Just the tonic

Just like the atmosphere, the drinks menu is a chilled-out affair with traditional drinks always going down well.

“We try to have as big a range of drinks as possible,” says Finlay.

“Most of our drinkers are more traditional, we sell lots of gin and tonics.

“We also have a range of rums but our big sellers are draft beers.”

Nothing says heatwave (or lack of) than a refreshing Aperol spritz.
Those partial to a G&T are in for a treat.

Rum lovers

Together with big brands, The Dutch Mill also stocks local tipples too.

“We have a good selection of rums as at the moment including Dark Matter from Banchory which is 16 miles west and Twice Buried which is 16 miles north in Inverurie,” says Finlay.

“We also have eight specialist rums from various parts of the Caribbean and we’re looking to extend that.”

The friendly staff at The Dutch Mill always make sure you feel like your glass is always half full.
The haggis bon bons are ideal for a quick bite to eat over a glass of wine.

Coffee and tea

Gin lovers are well catered for too as the bar is well stocked with both big name and local brands such as Porter’s gin while there’s also a good selection of wines.

“We also do Aperol spritz – Aperol, prosecco and soda – which has gone very well,” says Finlay.

Alcohol free tipples are also proving more popular than ever.

The Dutch Mill is one of Aberdeen’s best loved pubs.

“We have a range of soft drinks, we don’t do mocktails specifically but we can make it up for people if that’s what they want,” says Finlay.

“We also do freshly ground coffee and a range of teas including herbal tea.

“It’s lovely as very morning there’s a group of people who come in between 10am and 12pm for a cup of tea or coffee and have a blether or read the newspaper, it’s great to see.”

The hotel also has space for private functions.

The pornstar martini is very Instagrammable.

“We seem to be baby shower central, just about every Sunday there’s a baby shower in,” says Finlay.

A round of questions with Finlay Cran

Warm welcome: Finlay Cran is a familiar face to many as he has worked in bars and nightclubs across the city over the past 40 years.
It’s the end of the day, what do you pour yourself?

A wee (honest) 18-year-old Macallan.

If you were a drink, what would you be and why?

Seve Feu de Joie. An unusual blend of tastes, but wonderful.

Most unusual drink you’ve ever tried?

Some Thai snake wine …. “GADZ”

What’s the most under-rated drink?

Water. Taken for granted and a great whisky enhancer.

What’s in your drinks cabinet at home?

A range of whisky, gin and vodkas, complimented with strange and novelty gifts.

Best food and drink pairing?

Pouilly-Fume (dry sauvignon blanc wine) and pan fried sea bass.

If you were stuck on a desert island, what three drinks would be there with you?

Water, Dalmore 15 (single malt whisky) and Tennent’s Lager.

You have to make a drink to represent Aberdeen/Aberdeenshire. What would that be?

The Doric Dram. A large malt whisky (Glen Garioch) with a little ginger ale. Served with a mini rowie with rhubarb and ginger jam.

You have to serve your favourite superhero or celebrity a drink. Who is it and what do you serve?

A large malt with my father or a vodka martini with James Bond (Connery or Craig).

Tell us a secret trick of the trade?

NO. It’s a secret.

For more information about The Dutch Mill Hotel check out their website, Facebook or Instagram pages.