Family affair as distillery taps into NC500

Distiller Iain Black uses local grains and home grown ingredients to create the gins and rum. Picture: Contributed
Distiller Iain Black uses local grains and home grown ingredients to create the gins and rum. Picture: Contributed
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A brother and sister with a background in crofting have set up a craft distillery as they look to tap into the success of Scotland’s North Coast 500 route.

Iain and Jacqueline Black, along with their partners Eilidh and Stephen, have launched Ice and Fire Distillery with support from Business Gateway in Caithness.

The gin and rum have proven a hit with locals and are now being stocked in hotels and shops in the region with plans to expand into global markets in the pipeline.

As well as aspirations to start making vodka next summer, a third sibling, Elizabeth, is now experimenting using the Ice and Fire produce to whip up a range of flavoured chocolates, marmalades and fudge.

Jacqueline said: “Ice and Fire was launched as a result of Iain being diagnosed with neuro endocrine tumours around Christmas 2016. A year later, we made a decision as a family to launch a new venture that would fit around Iain’s needs rather than the other way round.

“Iain is our head distiller and uses local grains and home grown ingredients to create our gins and rum. We sold our first two gins at the local county show in July and the response was phenomenal.

“As a result, we had hotels and shops approach us for products and it reinforced our belief that we can turn our business in the back hills of Caithness into a global one.

“We have big aspirations for the company and we’ve bought a 25-acre croft and house to facilitate future expansion including building a bigger distillery, a restaurant and visitor centre.”

She added: “For the next 12 months we’ll be focusing on building our customer base and online sales. This will allow us to evaluate how things are before we begin to look at the later phases of the project including the visitor centre and restaurant.”

Jennifer Irvine of Business Gateway Caithness said: “Set in a historical location known for its spirit and whisky making, Ice and Fire Distillery is a wonderful addition to our business community.

“We provided specialist one-to-one start-up support advising Jacqueline and Iain with their business plan and looking into the gin and rum industry as a whole.”