2018 is set to be an exciting year for Orkney’s three gin producers.
Orkney Distilling plans to open its brand-new distillery and visitor centre in Kirkwall in the summer, with Deerness Distillery close to unveiling its new tasting room and shop. Meanwhile the Orkney Gin Company is currently building a new facility in Burray to help it expand production.
The perfect time, then, to celebrate these quality companies with the inaugural Orkney Gin Festival!
Hosted by The Old Library in association with Kirkjuvagr Gin from Orkney Distilling, the two-day event next weekend will celebrate the local gin scene as well as welcoming other producers from across Scotland.
“It just seemed like an obvious thing to do,” said Stewart Bain, manager of The Old Library in Kirkwall. “Gin is such a popular thing now and with us being a relatively new venue, and having the three producers locally, we just wanted to get the event up and running.”
Celebrating Orkney’s burgeoning gin reputation is something Stephen Kemp, who along with wife Aly is behind Kirkjuvagr Gin, has been planning since launching their company in 2016. “I’ve been keen to pull together a really high-quality event in a suitable setting for some time,” he said. “The Old Library is the ideal place for this type of event. I really want to see a ‘gin buzz’ developed in Orkney, so it’s not just about promoting Kirkjuvagr, but also about increasing the large customer base within the islands.”
The busy programme for the festival, which runs on the 16th and 17th of February, features The Sound Archive Gin Room where ticket holders can sample local and visiting gins, and there is a dinner and dance to round things off on the Saturday night.
But one of the main attractions is the chance to meet the people behind the gins that festival-goers will be enjoying. Three ‘Meet the Maker’ events will see the local producers join with visitors from Avva Scottish Gin, Strathearn Distillery, Isle of Harris Gin and Shetland Reel to discuss how they make their gins, choose their botanicals and plan to develop their brands going forward.
It’s sure to provide a fascinating insight into the gin producing process. “We’ve worked hard to put together events that will interest folk,” said Stewart. “We’re aware that lots of people now really care about what they’re drinking and are looking for quality rather than quantity. That’s why we hope the Meet the Makers sessions will prove popular.”
The festival will also be an excellent chance for all the gin companies to showcase their products and highlight their brand. Stuart Brown from the Deerness Distillery is looking forward to the weekend. “Festivals are great for customers to sample different spirits, learn about the process and meet the makers. Orkney is fast becoming a key food and drink destination and festivals like this promote Orkney and its producers.”
Gary Watt from the Orkney Gin Company is delighted to be involved in the event, which comes just ahead of the completion of its new production and storage building. “We’ve been really busy since we launched and a festival like this gives us the chance to meet some of our customers and celebrate the gin scene in Orkney.”
If the inaugural Orkney Gin Festival is a success then there could be more to come in the future, highlighting the wide range of quality food and drink available across Orkney. “We’re testing the water to an extent,” said Stewart. “It ties in to what we want to do as a venue here at The Old Library, and hopefully we could work on a wider promotion to really showcase Orkney as a food and drink destination.”
That’s a theme Stephen Kemp from Orkney Distilling is keen to explore too. “I want to see Orkney craft spirit production promoted and hopefully we might be able to turn this into a larger annual event that sees people travel here for a long weekend. It’s essential for us to increase tourist and event activity across the islands during the winter and shoulder months.”
Find out more about the Orkney Gin Festival and get ticket information via The Old Library’s Facebook page.
The Digital Orkney project has been part financed by the Scottish Government and the European Community Orkney LEADER 2014-2020 Programme.