By Ian McConnell

THE founder of Gin Bothy has launched a new, higher-volume business arm, Hipflask, which will produce liqueurs and rum in bottles that can be carried in a pocket or handbag and enable a move on to supermarket shelves.

Kim Cameron, who launched Angus-based Gin Bothy in 2015 and owns 100 per cent of the business, highlighted the fact that she had previously avoided selling to supermarkets.

She has already won a supermarket supply contract for Hipflask sloe bramble liqueur, which will be sold in 20-centilitre bottles in Aldi stores across Scotland from the spring.

This product will be available through the Hipflask website from today, and from Amazon. Also available online will be a Hipflask golden spiced rum, in a 20cl bottle.

Ms Cameron remains of the belief that the supermarket channel is not the right one for Gin Bothy, which produces full-strength gins including Gunshot as well as fruit liqueurs, and chilli, gingerbread and amaretto fusions. The small-batch Gin Bothy range is all produced and finished by hand.

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Although its events activity ground to a halt with the onset of the pandemic last spring, Gin Bothy’s production totalled 61,214 units in 2020. This comprised 70-centilitre bottles as well as 5cl miniatures, which are popular for festive gifting.

Ms Cameron said: “That was quite a big year, considering we didn’t have the events we would normally have been at.”

Gin Bothy exports to the Netherlands and Denmark. Ms Cameron flagged her appetite to also export Gin Bothy products to the US and Canada, believing this effort will be supported by demand from expats. Ms Cameron’s business employs 14 staff. All of the staff are female, something the entrepreneur noted was “not through any sort of planning”. The business has a production site at Kirriemuir and a visitor experience at Glamis, which is currently closed in line with the Scottish Government restrictions to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The entrepreneur noted she was sometimes described as an “accidental” gin-maker. On the back of success in a jam competition, she set up a jam-making business. Her mother, Sheelagh, suggested that she add the left-over fruit and juice to gin. This led to the launch of Gin Bothy.

Ms Cameron highlighted the transformation in the business model arising from the pandemic.

She noted Gin Bothy had attended 115 events in 2019. Last year, it attended 12, before the pandemic put a temporary stop to this part of the business.

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With the visitor experience also closed, Ms Cameron has been impressed by the support from a loyal customer base built up over the years, highlighting the success of her business’s offering of free delivery in the UK. Gin Bothy’s products are also sold through independent retailers.

Ms Cameron said: “There is a huge difference in terms of how the business was operating. Like everyone, we just had to adapt.”

She noted her business had won the best artisan drinks producer accolade at the 2020 Scottish Rural Awards.

The listing with Aldi arose after Ms Cameron entered Hipflask sloe bramble liqueur for the supermarket chain’s “next top products” competition.

Ms Cameron has had the Hipflask concept on the back-burner for a while, and highlighted the increased security its launch would provide for staff amid the effects of the pandemic. She said: “This is the time we need to be positive and plan and take new things to market.”

Noting the amount of time people were spending at home, Ms Cameron added that “they want something new and different”.

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She noted the Hipflask drinks could be produced in larger volumes than the Gin Bothy range, highlighting the opportunity to move into the supermarket sector provided by the launch of this separate brand.

Ms Cameron said of the more “portable” Hipflask range: “Throughout 2020, I was inspired by the way in which people found joy in the outdoors and in pursuits that nourished the soul…This is a drink that can be taken on any activity, whether that’s hillwalking, wild swimming or stargazing. Hipflask is the spirit of 2021, the spirit of adventure.”

She added: “Over the past five years, Gin Bothy has created 14 rural jobs and I am very proud that, despite all 2020 threw at us, those 14 jobs are secure. The lion’s share of Gin Bothy positioning is done through events such as the Royal Highland Show. With all of those cancelled, we had to rethink and make decisions quickly and effectively to ensure survival of our small, all-female team.

“The creation of Hipflask is very much part of that survival but is also a chance to spread our creative wings. This is a brand we can try more with, play around with and have fun with, but is also one that provides more security for our existing team.”