Meet the maker: Kirstie Nisbet, Director, Granite North


Q: Where do you work?

A: The granite city of Aberdeen; we have an industrial unit a few miles outside the city centre, not too far from the River Don.

Q: Which brands do you produce?

A: Granite North gin.

Q: How long have you worked there?

A: I’ve been involved since the beginning; there are only two of us in the company: myself and my partner Sandy Matheson. The company was founded in October 2015 and launched Granite North Gin in November 2017. Sandy trained and still works as a mechanical engineer. I’m originally a doctor in emergency medicine. At the start of this year I left my full-time post to concentrate on Granite North (with the odd shift in A&E for my adrenaline fix).

Q: Describe the production process.

A: Currently we work with Simon Fairclough from Persie Distillery in Glenshee to distil our gin. We then transport it and bottle and distribute from Aberdeen. We are in the final stages of finalising the plans for our own distillery, when we will then bring the whole process under one roof. We use nine botanicals in Granite North. We forage Grand Fir needles from the Cairngorms, this along with bay leaf gives Granite North an earthy, woody, ‘outdoor’ taste. Citrus is another important botanical; we use loads of grapefruit and lemon freshly grated on distilling day. It’s a London Dry gin, so nothing except water is added once it comes off the still.

Q: What’s a typical working day like?

A: There really isn’t a typical working day – every day is different. When he’s not engineering, Sandy is responsible for production so he is often found labelling and bottling, and, more recently, working on a new expression (but that’s top secret for now!). I spend a lot of time travelling across Scotland and the rest of the UK for events and meetings, but when I’m in Aberdeen I’m often out and about catching up with our local stockists or in the office organising tastings/ events. Our events calendar is jam-packed this year so there’s a lot of ensuring people and stock are where they are supposed to be. Sometimes my typical day is putting my stethoscope on and spent in a busy emergency department.

Q: Please provide brief tasting notes for your product.

A: Granite North is juniper-forward on the nose, citrus burst on the palate with earthy undertones towards the finish and ending on a pine note. The taste of the Cairngorms in a glass!

Q: What would you say sets your product apart?

A: There’s lots of really fantastic and quality gins coming out of Scotland. However I’ve not found another (and I’ve tried a few) that really tastes of Scotland. The Grand Fir tree along with the bay leave a woody/earthy note with a piney finish. The citrus balances this out with a bit of zest and sweetness. We wanted a gin that was smooth enough to be enjoyed on the rocks, but also stands out when mixed with tonic, and I think we achieved that with Granite North.

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

A: Walking into a shop or bar and seeing Granite North on the shelf. Nearly two years on I still get that excited rush!

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

A: Personally I like to enjoy my Granite North over large chunks of ice, a good quality light tonic and garnished with a fresh curl of grapefruit peel.

Q: What’s your career highlight so far?

A: Winning our first award! We were awarded a two-star Great Taste award from the Guild of Fine Foods when we were only eight months old. It was unexpected and a bit of a shock to be honest. We have achieved a couple of other awards since then (silver in the International Spirits Challenge and a silver in the London Spirits Competition). However there’s something special about your first award.

Q: How do you relax outside of work?

A: We love to spend time outdoors – that’s really where our Granite North journey started. We both love to walk in the Cairngorms or head out for a Sunday cycle.

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

A: Probably Sandy! We’ve been so busy since we started Granite North, sometimes it feels as though we hardly see each other, despite sharing a desk! We met in Bar 99, a cocktail bar in Aberdeen, so that’s always a favourite spot. I’m partial to an Espresso Martini and Sandy loves a Dark and Stormy.