Beinn An Turic's Story

Taste of Place Trails Stories

When I sit down to speak with Emma from Beinn An Tuirc Distillery, she greets me from the kitchen of her family’s castle home and tells me she’s just come in after a swim in the sea. “I was just about to ask if it was snowy with you,” I say disbelievingly, to which she responds that it’s just started coming down again and swivels her camera to show the flakes falling outside her window. It’s the end of a week which has seen Scotland battered by not one but two storms, and weather warnings have been in place across the UK – but this doesn’t seem to phase Emma. I quickly gather that, since moving from central Scotland ten years ago with her husband to return to his family home, Torrisdale Castle, Emma has fully embraced the wildness of life on the Kintyre Peninsula.

Progressive owners, sustainable business

As well as serving as the family home, the castle also houses a self-catering apartment, with two more self-catering properties on the estate – a business set up by Emma’s parents-in-law in the 80s and still run by the family. They have plans to add some camping pods in the near future. The castle has been in the family for five generations, but when the couple moved in it was in need of some refurbishment, so in 2015 they installed a hydro-electric scheme to generate some income and fund the necessary repairs. These repairs took a back seat though when they opted instead to use the money from the hydro scheme to invest in a new business: a gin distillery. They were keen to create something for themselves on the family estate, with the local landscape and culture at its heart alongside sustainability – which was already ticked off the list with their own readily available source of renewable energy. Emma says “the gin industry was booming in Scotland, with a new craft gin every week attached to a location. We just knew that someone was going to do a Kintyre gin and it may as well be us. So the timing of it was really good”.

Strong industry support

Emma tells me the support of the Scottish gin industry as a whole and their fellow distillers had a big impact on their journey to create their gin, “it’s a very supportive industry. There’s a real ethos of sharing and helping, and then it reflects well on the whole industry … we got a lot of help from other distilleries and we’ve tried to pass that on. We’ve worked with, say, Tiree Gin and Kilty Gin in Dunblane. We’ve made some really good pals.” I am a little surprised, I say, when other drinks industries in Scotland, such as whisky, for example, have a reputation for being more competitive and secretive. “You’re not denying you are competitive,” she says. “But the products are so different and the stories behind them are so different.”

It’s all about the strong industry

Emma says that being a destination helps set the Beinn An Tuirc distillery apart. In 2018 they expanded their farmhouse distillery to incorporate a shop and tasting room, offering tours for visitors, and in 2021 they added a cafe and a purpose-built gin school, where people can come and blend their own bespoke gin. She takes pride in being able to provide jobs for local people, with the distillery now employing five people alongside Emma and her husband. Initially, Emma says, the majority of their business came from passing trade but, increasingly, they’ve noticed familiar faces reappearing time and time again – in 2021 40% of their customers had visited them before.

A stunning location that tells the full story

Emma is clearly very fond of the distillery’s location, talking of how different their east side of the Kintyre Peninsula is from the west – “people are generally bowled over by Kintyre because they didn’t know how beautiful it was. We’re on the east side which is really quite lush, there are lots of trees, it’s very sheltered, and then half an hour drive round the peninsula you’re on the west coast which is wild, you’ve got the Atlantic rollers and those white sandy beaches, so you’ve got a lot of contrast in a small space”. When she first met Niall, she knew a move back to his home in Kintyre would be in her future, but it came sooner than she was expecting, and she found herself living in Torrisdale Castle with two small children. She was worried about raising children away from the city and struggling to meet people nearby, but she soon realised that there were other people like her who had found themselves in a similar position, and quickly made a circle of good friends and felt welcomed into the local community. In the end, she says, “it’s been an easy move”.

Community energy

Emma credits this local community as being a huge part of Kintyre Gin’s success; “we were very conscious that we have this responsibility to the area. We have sustainability at our heart, we’ve got our sustainable source of power but for me sustainability isn’t just about green energy, it’s got to be looking at the bigger picture, especially in a rural community because it’s so fragile.” She says she’s proud of how the community has supported them from the start, describing “a real buzz of excitement” when they first announced their plans, which has continued throughout the life of the distillery and its growth to include the gin school and cafe. Emma likes to view their success as a business through the lens of this community spirit. Her goals for the future centre around growing the distillery sustainably and creating new jobs for the local people of Kintyre, while continuing to enjoy her surroundings and share the beauty of Kintyre with visitors to the area.

 

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