Hamish Martin.



What is your business called?

The Old Curiosity Distillery.

Where is it based?

Outskirts of Edinburgh, Damhead.

What does it produce, what services does it offer?

The Old Curiosity Distillery is the nation’s first and only pure working gin botanical garden. We produce colour changing gins and other seasonal gins. Our Christmas gin is going to be exclusively available at M&S from the end of September, along with an Alcohol Free Botanical G&T.

To whom does it sell?

Retailers including M&S, Harvey Nichols, John Lewis, Harrods, Woodwinters, Majestic Wines and national wholesalers who supply some of the country’s best hotels and restaurants. We export worldwide

What is its turnover?

Our first full year trading will be £1.25m.

How many employees?


When was it formed?

We started trading in October 2017.

Why did you take the plunge?

I’ve always had a passion for herbs so in 2011 I decided to follow this and retrain at Edinburgh Royal Botanical Gardens to become a Herbologist.

With my new skills in tow, my wife and I opened the Secret Herb Garden in 2014 which we originally intended to be used as a café, venue and herb nursery. It took us two years to create the garden from a derelict 7.5 acre site. We created a beautiful place and people started to ask if they could use it as a wedding venue, as a result we ended up holding weddings every weekend in summer for the next three years.

After our ability to hold weddings was then cast into doubt temporarily, on planning grounds, my wife said: “you know that thing you can do with to change the colour of gin, I think you had better start a business with it!”

As someone who works with plants for medicinal purpose I had found that roses changed gin pink when tonic was added. I had also worked out how to distil fresh flowers to capture the true essence of the rose and we had been drinking this rose gin that turns pink at home.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I had spent 20 years working in the drinks industry and I owned a successful wine and whisky business called Inverarity Vaults, which was sold to WM Morton in 2011. When I decided to follow my passion for herbs I thought I was leaving the drinks industry for good.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

I was lucky enough to get support from friends of friends who all really liked the idea of the gin. They were up for investing to help us convert the old barn into a distillery, so we could bring the gin to market.

What was your biggest break?

Having one of the buyers from M&S as a guest at one of the weddings at the Secret Herb Garden. We got chatting and they asked my advice on what good local gins were, of course I couldn’t wait to tell them about a truly unique floral gin soon to be launched from the garden. The rest is history.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

I love walking across the garden from our home that we built on site to the distillery each morning (we spent the first three years all in a static caravan!).

I also love how varied our business is, as well as running the distillery, we have the Secret Herb Garden where we grow over 600 herb varieties and run a café, hold weddings, dinners, courses and events. We grow all our own botanicals here too, so people can see 1500 juniper plants, coriander all the base botanics, the flowers we use, the drying room as well as the still and bottling process. We will be opening a garden gin tour and visitor centre for the distillery very soon.

Getting to work with my family is also a real blessing. My wife, Liberty, runs the café and supports the gin side of the company; my eldest daughter Francesca who works fulltime with the business, sits next to me running all the events and marketing whilst my eldest son Rory who is at uni, works in either in the garden or the bottling line when he needs extra money. My youngest son Nicholas is in charge of cutting the grass and my middle daughter Violet spends summer holidays showing people around the garden. Our youngest daughter, May, (18 months) gets to meet everyone!

What are your ambitions for the firm?

To continue to grow the brand but have fun in creating various other floral colour changing gins, eau de vie, aperitifs and digestives from the flowers and botanics we grow here. The main thing is continuing to be creative and having fun with the plants.

What are your top priorities?

In the distillery they are to complete our new bottling line; to complete our visitor centre to allow tours of the gardens and distillery, to hold events in the distillery and house a retail shop for the gins and products; to focus on expanding the sales team and structure. We have three other amazing natural colour changing gins that we need to design and bring to market and want to start work on other spirits.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

I am not great at politics and find that hard to answer, but what I can say is that our local MSP, Colin Beatie, has been fantastic and is completely supportive of rural employment, sustainable methods of production and understanding business needs.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

I normally say is ‘every day is a school day’- valuable lessons are happening all the time.

How do you relax?

Being with the family and in the garden and of course enjoying a gin! My morning ritual from March to early October is to get up very early, go up to the Pentlands with the dogs, have a morning dip in a beautiful wild pool and watch the sunrise - this sets me up for the day perfectly.