Like many others, due to the circumstances we find ourselves in, we have not been able to get away on a holiday this summer. Therefore, we decided to take a virtual tour of some of the stunning islands in Scotland, with a focus on their association with gin (of course!).
We're starting with an island that we have a close affiliation to. The Isle of Bute is just a short sail 'doon the watter' from Glasgow and also where we host the Bute Gin Festival each February.
The Isle of Bute is a picturesque island situated in the Firth of Clyde on the west coast of Scotland.
Bute is around 47 square miles in area and the home to around 6.5 thousand people (at the last census) in 2011. The majority of the population live in Rothesay, Bute’s only town, with others living in villages and hamlets such as Port Bannatyne, Ascog, Kerrycroy and Kingarth.
The west of the island is known for it’s beautiful beaches which enjoy amazing views over the Sound of Bute towards the Isle of Arran.
Just south of Rothesay you will find Mount Stuart House, the ancestral home of the Marquesses of Bute and often considered to be one of the most impressive neo-Gothic mansions in the world.
Distilling on Bute
There are records of distilling taking place on Bute going back to the 18th century.
Situated to the south-west of Rothesay, Barronepark Distillery was opened and licensed to William Muir and Co. in 1798.
Known for the production of single malt whisky, the distillery stood at the bottom of Barone Hill, beside a burn that flowed into the nearby Loch Fad.
It remained in the Muir family and operated intermittently until it closed permanently in 1823. The distillery has now been demolished and joins the list of ‘lost’ distilleries in Scotland.
It wasn’t until 2020 when the Isle of Bute Gin Co returned home to their new distillery that spirit production started permanently on Bute once more.
Isle of Bute Gin Co.
Launching in 2018, the Isle of Bute Gin Co. used the landscape around the island as the inspiration behind their gins. Head Distiller, Simon Tardivel, worked all over the world as a multi-award winning brewer and alcohol expert before falling in love with Bute while living there.
The first two expression launched were Gorse and Oyster. The Gorse Gin celebrated the land with the Oyster Gin being a nod to the water surrounding Bute.
Sadly the company could not find a suitable premises for a permanent distillery in Rothesay so had to make the decision to temporarily relocate to a shared space in Glasgow, travelling to the island to forage for the botanicals. The dream was always to find a permanent space for a distillery, visitor centre and tasting room and project Back to Bute was on.
While still in Glasgow, a third gin was launched. Heather Gin is a refreshing gin that is perfect for lovers of fruity & floral gins. The hand foraged heather is combined with pink grapefruit for a perfectly balanced gin.
In late 2019, a premise was found right in the heart of Rothesay with the space being secured in February 2020 and production moving back to the island soon after.
Although delighted to be back on Bute, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the opening of the tasting area and visitor centre. However, after some rearranging, the Gin Garden was able to open in the summer offering G&Ts, tasting flights and some locally sourced snacks.
The Isle of Bute Gin family grew again in July 2020 with the additional of two new expressions: Island and Oaked Gins. As these were the first two gins released from the permanent home, they again paid tribute to Bute with the Island label artwork being designed by a local artist and the Oaked being a nod to the whisky-producing past.
We’re excited to see what will come next from Isle of Bute Gin Co. but if it comes close to quality of the current products then it will be special!
You can view the entire range below: