The Orkney Distillery



History - After receiving planning permission to build a distillery on Kirkwall’s historic harbour front in June of 2016,  husband and wife team Stephen and Aly Kemp set about building The Orkney Distillery in February of 2017. The project was complete in July this year and has created six new jobs for the island and includes a gin and cafe bar, a shop and events space as well as tours around its production area. The distillery was built on the site of derelict warehouses at the harbour front and is now something the Island can be proud of, this place feels more like a community hub rather than just a distillery.

The Gin – Everything this team does relates back to Orkney being proud Orcadian’s themselves. Kirkjuvagr Gin has been created using blend of local botanicals,including a variety of Angelica brought to the islands by Norsemen centuries ago. Also in their recipe is Ramanas Rose, Burnet Rose, Borage and traditional Orkney bere barley. All of these botanicals  have been specially grown and handpicked by the Agronomy Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands, at their site overlooking Kirkwall Bay. They have a small range including their lead Kirkjuvagr Gin, Arkh-Angell Storm Strength which has a higher ABV and a summer edition which is fresh, fruity and crisp. Kirkjuvagr means “Church Bay” in Old Norse. Back when Orkney was emerging as a seat of power in the Viking Empire, the Norsemen would sail their longships into Kirkjuvagr, which over the centuries grew into our islands’ capital, Kirkwall.

Geek Fact - Strathearn Distillery actually made Kirkjuvagr Gin at their home in Perthshire before their own distillery was built. They also trained up their Head of Production, Louis Wright. Young Louis is a former pupil of Kirkwall Grammar School who studied History at the University of Edinburgh and also worked as a tour guide at Highland Park Distillery during his summer holidays.

Why Visit? –  The distillery tours run at 11am and 2pm each day (except Sundays) with extra tours added for peak times. During the off-peak season there is one tour per day at 2pm (except Sundays). You can check live availability and book online through their website. And it’s not just for adults. The wee ones can enjoy the tours as well (without alcohol of course). They are also adding a “Gin Making” experience this year where you sit with the head distiller and actually created your own gin.

Interesting fact – Orkney is also home to two other world class distilleries in Scapa and Highland Park. Which are two of my all time favourite single malts. You can also visit Deerness Distillery who are the creators of Sea Glass Gin.  There is something special about Orkney, it may be the connection to Scandinavia that makes it interesting to me or it could be the fact it has amazing whiskies and now an amazing gin to give me more reason to visit.

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