Highland distillery begins to blossom

Craft couple is bottling the essence of Wester Ross

Gordon and Vanessa Quinn decided to make a gin that represents their part of Scotland (Picture: Mark Appleton Photography)

By Jonathan Watt

A HUSBAND and wife team from the Highland village of Badachro in Wester Ross have taken an unlikely step into Scotland’s booming craft gin movement, after a wish to make a genuine souvenir for the guests in their bed and breakfast took them into distilling.

It all began in 2005, when, just twelve weeks after being introduced in the Badachro Inn, Gordon Quinn, who had his own advertising agency, and Vanessa, who had a hospitality background, were married. But far from settling down in the Highlands, Gordon’s work took the couple to the Middle East, with later moves to London and Edinburgh slowly edging them back towards the Scottish Highlands.

Having started a family, the couple’s desire to leave city life behind in exchange for the tranquillity of northern Scotland grew and they went on to open their acclaimed B&B, Aird Hill, on the shores of Loch Gairloch.

Business was booming, but guests at Aird Hill wanted a souvenir from the area to take home with them, so after a period of contemplation the idea for Badachro Gin, a product that Gordon believes captures the best of the area, was born.

We wanted to make something of our own, something of the area, of Badachro.

“At first we thought we would get a white label whisky and brand it ourselves as lots of people do but that’s cheating,” said Gordon.

The couple’s moment of inspiration arrived when, chatting with friends at a dinner party, they discussed what makes the area distinctive.

“We wanted to make something of our own, something of the area, of Badachro,” explained Gordon.

“Then we thought after it rains there’s a smell of wild myrtle that grows all around us and in the summer when the sun shines there’s the scent of gorse blossom in the air, which is the most gorgeous sweet smell and we thought if only we could bottle that.

“That’s where our idea and our recipe come from.”

It was here that Gordon’s long-term interest and study of distilling and Vanessa’s considerable horticultural knowledge led to them making a gin using botanicals native to the Gairloch area.

And from humble beginnings the product was launched in June, immediately benefitting from the village’s location on the North Coast 500 tourist route.

“Initially, it was just something to sell to our B&B guests,” said Gordon.

“But as soon as we started doing that, the Badachro Inn asked us about selling the gin in there and, given our history with the place, we were more than happy to do that. It blossomed from there. Next, a hotel wanted it and then the shops around Gairloch.

“So I got a bigger still and we’ve now contracted with a distributor in the Highlands and are looking to get one in the central belt now too.”

Our gin is all about the clarity of the land, the sea and the sky around us.

In a market where artisan products with genuine provenance and brand story are increasingly sought after, Gordon is confident that he and his wife have created a spirit that comprehensively ticks all the right boxes for consumers.

He said: “Because of our motivation the brand should be about provenance and it is.

“Our gin is all about the clarity of the land, the sea and the sky around us.

“We pick all the botanicals ourselves, we dry and process them ourselves and even bottle it and label it ourselves. It really is a truly handcrafted product.”

It’s an exciting time for the couple as their gin grows. Alongside plotting to expand distribution to Glasgow and Edinburgh, the Badachro Distillery will be releasing a strong sloe gin before the end of the year, which Gordon said will be perfect for those exploring the Highlands, and plans for a Badachro rum are in the works too.

After six months of consolidating the business, Gordon is eyeing both the long and short term, saying: “Hopefully, we’ll grow our business, not into a huge distillery but into something that my children might want to take over.

“I’d love them to have a Highland business that they could get involved in.”