Aberdeen gin firm eyes major growth on push into USA

The maker of an artisan gin produced with ingredients including water from Loch Ness and rose petals from a plant gifted by Bonnie Prince Charlie is eyeing a ten-fold jump in production on the back of a move into the US this year.

Ingram has quit his career in the oil and gas sector to focus on the business. Picture: Richard Baron.

Stuart Ingram is behind House of Elrick Gin, and appeared on Dragons’ Den, ultimately rejecting an £80,000 offer from Peter Jones.

The venture is based around the House of Elrick estate in the lowlands of Aberdeenshire, with the house built at the height of the Scottish Enlightenment period in 1720.

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The gin claims to be the only one in Scotland to use water from Loch Ness, and includes Jacobite rose petals from the plant gifted to the estate by Bonnie Prince Charlie.

The firm says the property has hosted “lively discussions from some of the most respected creative, philosophical and scientific minds of the time”.

Ingram has now quit his career in the oil and gas sector – having working for firms including Cairn Energy, BP and Shell – and was previously a quantity surveyor.

House of Elrick’s range of gins is stocked by the likes of Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason, and Duty Free, which is its biggest customer in the UK.

As for the on-trade, it is stocked by the likes of Borough in Edinburgh.

He has just obtained his licence to export to the US, “which will be a big push for this year”. Now, Denmark is its biggest export customer, with Ingram also flagging Sweden and Russia, while China is “bubbling away” this year.

In its first 12 months it sold 12,500 bottles, the second 25,000 – exceeding the targets for both years – and is forecasting up to 45,000 this year.

“Going into next year, given that I’m going into America… that should potentially increase ten-fold,” said Ingram.

He dismisses the idea that the gin market could be peaking, instead expecting a move towards brand loyalty in a crowded market. The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) said last month that in 2018, Brits bought more than 73 million bottles of gin, breaking all previous records.

It also said there are 361 distilleries making spirits in the UK, including 160 in Scotland.

Ingram also expects a move towards flavoured gins this year, a market WSTA said in 2018 saw “whopping” 751 per cent year-on-year growth.

In addition to Elrick’s classic gin there is a Navy Strength version, plus Old Tom (which is sweeter than London Dry) in original and coconut.

The latter is going into Lidl next month, while Ingram is mulling other products with flavours sourced from the estate’s walled garden.

He believes he would need say, two to six staff should growth exceed expectations, and he is converting the house into a wedding venue with 12 bedrooms, each themed with one of the gin’s botanicals, serving as a “unique” destination venue in Aberdeen. A restaurant is also planned further down the line.