Gin distillery in old hen house wins shed of year

AN old hen house with a gin distillery, farm shop and ladies’ waiting room has been crowned shed of the year.
Estate owner Walter Micklethwait celebrates his win. Picture: HemediaEstate owner Walter Micklethwait celebrates his win. Picture: Hemedia
Estate owner Walter Micklethwait celebrates his win. Picture: Hemedia

The once dilapidated outhouse in Aviemore was transformed by Walter Micklethwait, 36, into a quirky party venue.

Inshriach Distillery has four rooms including: a general store farm shop which sells vintage clothing, food, postcards and hand-carved items; a ladies’ waiting room with a piano and armchairs; a saloon; and a bar with a functioning distillery.

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The shed beat 2,519 other entries to win the title, including a mobile miniature railway wagon, a floating beach hut and a corrugated cottage which was used by land girls during the Second World War. Estate owner Mr Micklethwait said: “We were up against some proper craftsmen, brilliant eccentrics and most of all a really nice bunch of people, so it is an absolute honour to have won shed of the year 2015.

Crossbill gin is produced in the shed. Picture: HemediaCrossbill gin is produced in the shed. Picture: Hemedia
Crossbill gin is produced in the shed. Picture: Hemedia

“A huge thanks to everyone who voted for us. We’re now looking forward to celebrating with a gin from the distillery in our shed.”

Taking its name from the Scottish crossbill bird from the Highlands, the micro-distillery has released fewer than 3,000 bottles so far, with 720 bottles in each run, retailing at £38 a bottle. They are now planning a gin festival for 15 August for just 300 people to cater to increasing interest.

Crossbill gin is working with the Forestry Commission, Scottish Natural Heritage and to revive Scotland’s juniper production and create a sustainable supply, focusing on the local estate.

Mr Micklethwait said: “We hope the recognition by shed of the year inspires others with a similar passion and drive. This award demonstrates that great things can come out of small spaces. All that is needed is a good idea, a lot of creativity and some basic DIY skills.”

A public vote determined the winner for the first time this year because the panel of judges were unable to decide between the Inshriach Distillery and Owl House shed.

The winner was announced on the final episode of Channel 4’s Amazing Spaces: Shed Of The Year last night.

Mr Micklethwait will receive £1,000 courtesy of the sponsor, Cuprinol, as well as £100 worth of Cuprinol products, a winner’s plaque and a giant crown for the shed.

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Architect George Clarke, who presents the programme, said: “The nation’s love for transforming their garden shed to an extension of the home is really on-trend right now.

“People are embracing the fascinating world of sheds like never before and the TV show highlighted some of the most creative, beautiful and unusual sheds in the country, as well as allowing me to meet the talented people behind their creations.”

Crossbill say that the shed’s setting, in the Inshriach forest in Cairngorms National Park, is what helps achieve its unique gin blend.

Founder Jonathan Engels said: “This has been a passion project for me. I’d always been interested in reviving Scottish juniper harvesting to produce a truly Scottish gin.

“The forests of Inshriach provided us with the best conditions for cultivating a sustainable supply of wild juniper.”