Meet the Maker: Graham Taylor, Founder and MD, Crafty Distillery


Q: Where do you work?

A: Crafty Distillery is based just outside Newton Stewart in the heart of the Galloway countryside. Purpose built by my talented dad Billy and team back in 2017, the distillery is modern, inviting and takes full advantage of the fantastic views out to the Galloway Hills.

The building is split into our Tree Bar & Café, where we welcome thousands of visitors a year from around the world, and our production area where we craft our spirits all the way from local grain.

Q: How long have you worked there?

A: The journey started back in 2013 after a bit of banter with my brother Stephen about a small whisky distillery that was up for sale. We could never have afforded it, but it made me realise there was a big opportunity to create a distillery known for its craft process and inclusivity.

We wanted to create a ‘grain to glass’ craft distillery that could make any spirit from scratch, with the aim of creating spirits that are unique to us and our region. With my background in the design industry I had great fun creating our brand and our distillery. We got the ball rolling in the summer of 2015 and submitted plans. By early 2017 our home was complete and by summer 2017 we launched our Hills & Harbour Gin.

Q: Describe the production process.

A: One of the exciting things about Crafty Distillery is that we craft our own spirit to add to our gin – a rare process in today’s craft scene. It’s a costly and lengthy undertaking of sourcing local grain, milling, mashing, fermenting and distilling all within our distillery, but by doing this we are creating something really tasty, which is also unique to us.

To get our vibrant flavour our distiller, Craig Rankin, spent 14 months and more than 90 recipes to dial in the final blend we use today.

To ensure vibrancy, all five basic tastes are hit with elements of sweet (mango), sour (orange), bitter (local Noble Fir) salt and umami (local Bladderwrack seaweed). We also create sensation by hitting the nerves with subtle numbing green Sichuan pepper and tangy bay leaf.

Q: What’s a typical working day like?

A: One of the things I love about the industry is that there is not really a typical day for me. We are a team of nine full-time at the distillery, but that doesn’t stop me from getting involved in all aspects of the business.

On any given day you might find me in the café talking to visitors, or I could be at my desk connecting our distillery and brands to new or existing customers, on the road at an event, in bars training staff or in the distillery helping the guys in production.

Q: Please provide brief tasting notes for your products.

A: Hills & Harbour Gin leads with juniper but is balanced with hints of foraged local Noble Fir, tropical fruit, citrus spice, tangy sherbet and a subtle scent of the shore.

Q: What would you say sets your products apart?

A: I think what sets us apart as a distillery is our absolute commitment to innovation, taste, integrity of process and the drive to ensure it can be enjoyed by everyone. By focusing on this we have delivered a visually exciting brand that really connects our customers to our story, our taste and the experiences we offer.

Take our Hills & Harbour Gin – not only do we make our own spirit, we also took our time to ensure the taste really did work for all. To achieve this we sent three variations to over 400 of the general public. Through their feedback we shaped the final balance and body, creating a gin developed with the people for the people.

Image: The Gin Cooperative.

Q: What one fact should bartenders know about your products?

A: Hills & Harbour Gin is balanced and versatile so you can serve it any way you like. Meaning it can be enjoyed by anyone.

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

A: It’s been hard graft building our distillery and our brand from scratch, so for me the best part of the job is the simple pleasure of seeing how our business is benefiting our team of staff, our customers, our region and the industry.

Q: What’s your favourite way to drink your products?

A: The great thing about Hills & Harbour Gin is that it doesn’t have to rely on other flavours to work. I like to serve a basic G&T with plenty of ice and some decent tonic. If I want to go with a garnish we recommend a slice of fresh mango. This really lets the flavour of the gin stand out.

Q: What’s your career highlight so far?

A: Creating a brand that is respected by the industry and enjoyed by everyone who likes a tipple.

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

A: As we all know Scotland invented almost everything, so I admire any Scottish brand that goes the extra mile like we do, to create spirits that honour the term craft and bring true innovation to the table.

Q: How do you relax outside of work?

A: Catching up with friends over a few beers is always good. I also enjoy running and biking, which clears my mind, gives a natural boost and helps sweat out last night’s gin and beer!

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

A: My dad. Any pub with a great selection of Scotch malt whisky. As many good malts as we could handle.