Plans to create a micro distillery at a Highland hotel

Noru and Craig Innes outside the building they are turning into a micro distillery
Noru and Craig Innes outside the building they are turning into a micro distillery

A Highland hotel is hoping to start distilling its own gin using plants gathered in the local area.

Craig Innes, 32, and his wife Noru, 37, currently stock more than 50 different types of gin at the Loch Leven Hotel in North Ballachulish.

But when they discovered there was no gin being produced in the local area, they decided to make their own.

Mr and Mrs Innes have now set up a company called Pixel Spirits Ltd, which has been granted a rectifiers licence by HM Revenue & Customs.

They have also applied for planning permission to change the use of an agricultural outbuilding near the Lochaber hotel, which they jointly own with Mr Innes’ parents, to a micro distillery and to make alterations to the building.

Mr Innes explained that the aim of the distillery was to create a range of craft spirits for clients, such as Loch Leven Hotel.

He said: “Hotel gin sales are through the roof. We have almost as many gins now as whiskies – each with its own distinctive flavour, often taking botanicals from the area were it was distilled.

“And customers are starting to look for provenance, especially visitors to the area who want to try something produced locally, but there aren’t any gin makers in this area.

“So I started researching it and realised it was something we could do ourselves.”

Initially, the couple will be undertaking the distilling process, bottling, labelling and marketing of the product themselves and envisage selling it to clients from the Lochaber and Highland area.

Mr Innes said: “The distillery’s primary focus is on the creation of an artisan and local product using locally foraged as well as traditional ingredients to create a distinctive and unique spirit product.”

He added that he had visited micro distilleries in Finland and Holland to learn more about the process.

And a medicinal herbalist has been helping the couple to identify which of the plants growing around the hotel and in the wider local area would be suitable for this use.

“It’s all very exciting.

“We are planning to start off small and see where it goes,” said Mr Innes.

They are hoping to begin distilling around 30 to 40 litres (53 to 70 pints) per week – about 40 to 60 bottles of spirit – from mid November.

The first few batches will be used for recipe development, but they are hoping to have their first bottles ready in time for Christmas.

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