Meet the Maker: Simon Buley, Gin Master, Caorunn Gin

Q: Where do you work?

A: Balmenach Distillery, Cromdale, Grantown-on-Spey.

Q: How long have you worked with Caorunn and how did you start?

A: We started to create a true Scottish gin in 2009, so I have been hand-crafting Caorunn for over eight years. Full-scale production commenced in May 2009 when we transplanted a 1920s copper berry chamber to the distillery and then scoured the area for natural ingredients that grew locally and had a significant Celtic link.

Q: Describe the Caorunn production process.

A: Caorunn is made in the only working copper berry chamber in the world – the process is nice and slow, which means all the flavours of the botanicals are picked up. We handcraft our gin in small batches, offering care and attention to every drop. It’s also made with the highest quality pure grain spirit, Scottish water, six traditional botanicals and five Celtic botanicals. The five Celtic botanicals include Rowan Berry, Heather, Coul Blush Apple, Dandelion and Bog Myrtle, which I hand-pick from the hills surrounding the distillery.

Q: What’s a typical working day like?

A: As well as being responsible for Caorunn I am also an assistant manager at Balmenach Distillery, so a typical day is very busy! For Caorunn I’m involved in every step of the process, which means I can ensure every bottle of Caorunn is of the highest standard. This means controlling it at every single stage, from hand-foraging the botanicals to individually weighing every element to ensure consistency.

Q: Describe Caorunn Gin.

A: Clean, sweet, full-bodied, with a fresh and long-lasting finish – there’s a real depth of flavour in every drop. The perfect serve is with cool fizzing tonic and slices of red apple to highlight the aromatic flavour profile of the wild, foraged Highland botanicals – especially the Coul Blush Apple.

Q: What would you say sets Caorunn apart?

A: Our attention to detail and using natural ingredients that grow locally. Caorunn is nestled in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, which has an abundance of wild ingredients, so it makes sense to take advantage of these and o really bottle the essence of Scotland. By hand-foraging the botanicals, it also means we know we’re using the best ingredients, and we have control over when we pick them to ensure we have peak freshness.

Q: What one fact should bartenders know about Caorunn?

A: They should know our five hand-foraged botanicals in order to make the perfect drink. Caorunn is complemented perfectly with red apple slices, however our gin is beautifully versatile which means it’s also perfect for any classic or contemporary cocktail.

Q: What’s your favourite part of the job?

A: My favourite part is watching the enjoyment and surprise on people’s faces the first time they try Caorunn.

Q: What’s your favourite way to drink Caorunn Gin?

A: Nice and simple – gin and tonic with slices of red apple.

Q: What’s your career highlight so far?

A: Every day is a highlight – I am fortunate to be in full-time employment doing a job I really enjoy. I’m so proud how far we’ve come in such a short time.

Q: Who do you admire in the industry and why?

A: I admire everybody who puts the time and effort into producing great drinks; there are lots of people behind the scenes in every industry that deserve recognition. The craft gin industry is so diverse and I know first-hand how much passion and effort goes into each bottle.

Q: How do you relax outside of work?

A: By travelling in my VW camper and sea fishing.

Q: If you could invite anyone for a drink who would you ask, where would you go and what would you drink?

A: Both of my Grandads. I was too young to go to a bar with them before they died. I would love to have been able to sit in a pub with them and have a good laugh and chat over a beer, and hear some of their stories.