New direction for Callander lessees

Hospitality stalwarts launch a new spirits-focused venture

No matter what type of venue you run or where it’s located, it’s always disappointing when a neighbouring business goes under, with the premises subsequently left lying empty.

• Mike Cantlay (left), chair of Scottish Natural Heritage, was on hand to open the Spirit of Callander.

Faced with this very scenario were Gordon and Jan Halliday, whose Greene King-leased hotel was situated next door to an empty, disused shop for some time.

The couple, who have operated the Waverley Hotel on Callander’s main street for the past 11 years, were hopeful the unit would be offered for sale. So when it did eventually come onto the market, it was music to their ears, for more reasons than one.

Gordon told SLTN that for a long time, the couple had considered the premises the ideal spot for their next venture – a specialist spirits store.

“We always said, if the shop became available we’d try and do something with it,” said Gordon.
“We’ve wanted to get into malt whiskies and then obviously as the years progressed, gin became quite a big thing.”
Having purchased the shop, the couple undertook a full scale renovation, the result of which is specialist whisky and gin shop, the Spirit of Callander.

And while the focus is on both whisky and gin, Gordon said the shop aims to offer something more than just a good selection of spirits.

“We wanted to make it a little bit different, and so we offer tastings and tours and gin distillery/whisky distillery visits, whisky blending, gin making, as well as some good whisky and gin,” he explained.
With 60 gins and almost 300 whiskies already on the shelves, the Spirit of Callander aims to cater for a broad range of tastes and budgets.

In fact, Gordon said that if “somebody wants a particular whisky that we don’t stock, within the hour we can find out where we can get it, how we can get it, how quickly we can get it and how much it’ll be”.

However, generally speaking he said there’s certain criteria that each spirit must meet in order to make the shelf.
“Well first and foremost, they need to be distilled in Scotland – that was the whole idea,” Gordon explained.
Beyond a spirit’s origins, both Gordon and Jan felt it was important to embrace reciprocal support, specifically when it comes to local distillers.

“We’ve got a great distillery in Callander – McQueen Gin – so we’re very much tying into them; we’re tying into Deanston distillery – they’ve got a fantastic range of malts. And Glengoyne and Glenturret,” he said.

“We’ll give them space to advertise their products and we’ll happily sell them.
“But then they’ll support us with marketing and everything else, so it’s a two-way thing.”
This ethos continues elsewhere.

For instance, having started their supply process with Gordon & MacPhail, the couple created their own malt – Spirit of Callander 10 year old – from a cask supplied by the independent wholesaler.
With just 186 bottles available, and demand said to be high, Gordon said there will be further special edition expressions.

“That’s the whole idea; we’ll continually have a spirit of Callander – a malt that will change as each cask sells,” he said.

With business already booming, and arrangements in place with tour companies, Gordon reckons alongside building the shop’s reputation, there could be further expansion in future.
“That’s where the name ‘Spirit of’ came from; because we figured that in future we might move onto, say, a Spirit of Bridge of Allan, or a Spirit of Pitlochry,” said Gordon.