The Shetland Distillery

Saxa Vord, Unst


History: Back in 2013 two couples decided to start the The Shetland Distillery Company. Their dream was to open the country's most northerly distillery on the island of Unst in the Shetlands. The friends, on paper, had the the knowledge and the space to make this a reality. Frank and Debbie Strang are owners of Saxa Vord holiday resort on the island and Stuart and Wilma Nickerson are owners of independent bottler The Malt Whisky Company. They began work refurbishing a former RAF site at Saxa Vord and over the last six years have transformed it into an award-winning tourist resort with year round self-catering accommodation, seasonal hostel and bar/restaurant. The first commercial distillation of gin in Shetland was run in September 2014 producing our first 500 limited edition bottles which are in Shetland tweed bags and marked L001/14. Not content with just gin they are trying to raise over £4 million to to build the most northerly whisky distillery on the site.

The Spirit: The inspiration for their award-winning Shetland Reel Gin was to create a traditional gin using many of the botanicals used in the great gins of the past. Botanicals like juniper berries, coriander seeds, orris root, cinnamon and citrus peel are also combined with locally-harvested apple mint and bladderwrack seaweed. You will also find a delicious liqueur in their range which is infused with foraged brambles and home-grown rhubarb. While you wait for their whisky distillery to be built you can also try their independently bottled Shetland Reel Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, which takes single malts from around Scotland.

Geek Alert: Even though they haven't built their whisky distillery yet, it didn't stop them creating a whisky that they feel represents Shetland. They collaborated with a distillery in Portsoy in the north east to create the spirit and mature the whisky before being shipped to Unst for bottling.This was all overseen by industry veteran Stuart Nickerson who wanted to create a range of single malt bottlings from four casks that would be a symbol to whisky being created legally in Shetland for the fist time in its history.

Why Visit?: OK, so this is not the easiest place to get to but if you have a passion for gin and Scotland then you simply have to make the effort, plus you can even stay on the site. This is a place built on pure determination and a love for the island. You can book tours from April to September for £10 where you will receive a tour and a tasting session.

Interesting fact: This tiny and beautiful island is packed into an area just 12 miles long by five miles wide and is the most northerly inhabited island in the British Isles. It may be hard to get to but trust me it is well worth the effort.