Artisan Food Producers
Argyll is a unique natural larder, with miles and miles of coastline and myriad lochs offering up bountiful fish and shellfish while the hills, glens and pasture are farmed for meat, dairy and food crops. But most importantly, there’s a thriving community of producers creating a mouth-watering array of epicurean delights. From local cheeses to kiln-smoked fish, ales to jams and chutney, you’ll find an incredible range of the highest quality artisan food and drink being produced in Argyll and the Isles. Meet five of Argyll’s passionate producers.
Shellfield Farm Lamb
Sheep have been roaming free among the craggy hills and nutrient-rich saltmarshes of Glendaruel on the Cowal peninsula for well over a hundred years. And Nikki and Fraser Brown of Shellfield Farm, a 2,500-care hill farm, are continuing this long tradition. Fraser is the fourth generation of his family to farm at Shellfield. The couple have allied this long familial heritage to a modern entrepreneurial spirit, introducing a number of new initiatives to their traditional farming activities, from event-catering to pie-making. But producing great tasting lamb is still at the heart of everything they do. Reared on a diet of wild grass, heather and berries combined with essential salts and minerals from natural tidal marshes, Shellfield Farm lamb is beautifully tender and offers a uniquely satisfying taste. You’ll find Shellfield Lamb on the menu in a number of local restaurants, including Inver, Botanica, Portavadie and The Oystercatcher. Or catch them at festivals and events across the country and try one of their ‘naturally tasty’ burgers. You can also by freshly-butchered lamb, hogget and mutton in whole- or half-carcass quantities at certain times of the year.
Kintyre Gin is made at Beinn an Tuirc Distillery, which occupies a former piggery building at the Torrisdale Castle Estate on the east coast of the Kintyre peninsula. It’s the latest brain-child of Niall and Emma Macalister Hall, who run the estate. Torrisdale has been in the ownership of the Macalister Hall family since 1872. Over the years, the estate has diversified, with new initiatives such as self-catering holiday accommodation and a hydro-electric scheme introduced. Kintyre Gin is the next exciting chapter. The gin is a beautifully blended spirit using carefully selected botanicals. It’s sustainably produced using the estate’s very own renewable energy. The small copper pot still has a fill capacity of only 230 litres of spirit, resulting in a truly hand-crafted gin. The still is called Big Don, a nod to Niall and his brother Kenny’s father, who was a keen gin drinker. You’ll find Kintyre Gin in many shops and bars across Argyll and further afield. Or why not drop in for a distillery tour?
Isle of Mull Cheese
Isle of Mull Cheese is produced at Sgriob-ruadh Farm on the island of Mull. It was set up by Jeff and Christine Reade in 1981. Their cheeses are made from Sgriob-ruadh milk, just hours out of the cows, using renewable energy. The results include the famous Isle of Mull, a tangy farmhouse cheddar, Hebridean Blue and Tobermory Truckles. The cows on the Sgriob-ruadh farm are grass-reared, with grain from the nearby Tobermory Distiller also used for fodder. At Sgriob-ruadh Farm the cheese is kept as natural as possible. There’s no colouring added, and for that reason, the cheeses made in winter, when the cows are being fed hay, are whiter in appearance than those made when fresh, green grass is more readily available. Visitors to the farm are welcome – you can watch the cheese-making as it happens, see the maturing rounds in the underground cellar and buy some to take away. Or how about relaxing in the lovely Garden Bar with a Ploughman's lunch?
Wee Isle Dairy
The Wee Isle Dairy is a family run businesses, making delicious whole milk and artisan ice cream at Tarbert Farm on the beautiful island of Gigha. Emma Rennie and her brother Mark Rennie run the farm, producing wonderfully rich whole milk from around 60 cows. The herd is predominantly Friesian. The milk issupplied in lovely glass bottles having been pasteurised in gentle, low-temperature old-fashioned way. Emma’s husband Don, meanwhile, heads up the ice cream operation, making incredible tasting ice cream from the creamy milk in a number of traditional and more unusual flavours, including Bramble & Whisky and Mocha. Both the bottled milk and the ice cream are available to buy in many shops locally, and if you’re visiting Gigha you can stock up on both at Ardminish Stores.
Oban Chocolate Co
Husband and wife team Stewart and Helen MacKechnie set up the Oban Chocolate Company in 2003 following a visit to the Margaret River chocolate factory in Australia. It’s been a huge success and was voted one of the top ten most delicious chocolate shops in Europe in 2015. The shop on Oban’s Esplanade is a chocaholic’s dream. You can choose from a scrumptious selection of hand-made chocolates, with everything from the fiery Chilli Chuffle to the sublime Pear William. All the chocolates are completely handmade in the small factory, and you can watch the chocolatiers in action. And if you can’t visit the shop or café in person, you can order a huge selection of chocolates online.
This is just a tiny taste of the producers who are making incredible food and drink across Argyll. Check out Food From Argyll to find out more.