Taking its name from the rock so closely associated with the North East of Scotland, Granite North Gin is inspired by the rugged peaks and dense forests of the Highlands. It was developed with the modern adventurer in mind.
We had the pleasure of speaking to Founder Sandy Matheson and Creative Director Kirsty Nisbet, to find out the whole story behind their, award winning new gin.
The founder of Granite North gin, Sandy Matheson, is an adventurer in more than one sense of the word. A keen hillwalker, fully trained mechanical engineer and now the owner of a brand-new gin distillery in the Cairngorms. It’s clear that when Sandy sets his sights on a goal he is sure to see it through to the bitter end (or in the case of his gin, the very smooth end).
It was in fact one of Sandy’s other intrepid pursuits that led him down the path to becoming a distiller – one bright morning as he embarked upon a several day long trek to climb one of Britain’s highest peaks, Braeriach, he found himself in the middle of a quiet pine forest:
“The smell of the pine was so amazing – it’s fresh and crisp and invigorating, the scent of the highlands,” Sandy explained to us over the phone.
“I wondered what that smell would taste like and that’s where the whole idea to create Granite North began.”
And begin it did. When he returned home to Aberdeen Sandy started his first ever distillation, using pine needles from the grand fir trees which he had encountered on his adventure, in a tiny 3-litre still in his kitchen.
From there he enlisted the help of Kirstie Nisbet as his Chief Taster because of her keen nose and ability to pick up tiny changes in flavour. Nearly two years – and 85 painstaking distillations – later, they were ready to launch their first gin.
Kirstie, who is herself an emergency doctor, has since become a firm member of the Granite North team, as its Creative Director.
Together the twosome have achieved some remarkable feats – since its launch in November of this year. Their unique pine-flavoured gin has won a two-star Great Taste Award and is a finalist in the Scottish Gin Awards’ London Dry Gin category.
Sandy is also in the process of completely refurbishing a steading, deep in the heart of the Cairngorms, which is soon to become the permanent home of Granite North:
“I hadn’t done anything like this before,” he explained.
“I had refurbished my own house and helped with Kirstie’s. And as a mechanical engineer I’m not afraid of tools or getting my hands dirty but there’s a lot more to think about when it comes to a distillery – like structural support, so that the building can actually cope with the weight of all the equipment as well as how things should look and where everything needs to go.
And from these huge parts of the project, right down to the most minute details, Kirstie and Sandy are involved – going on regular expeditions in the forest to collect pine needles as well as individually labelling and numbering each bottle by hand.
The thought of all this left us feeling perplexed as to how they manage to find enough hours in the day, so we asked Kirstie – who made it sound easy: “Working in emergency medicine, I’m used to high pressure environments and having to balance multiple spinning plates at the same time.
“A lot of the skills are transferable to running a company, in particular a gin company, I’ve had to think on my feet, learn new skills (and learn them fast!)
“It can be tricky balancing both careers, so I have to be very organised and very strict with deadlines.”
We then asked Sandy the same thing – he reamained as bewildered as we were, “I ask myself the same question every day.” He laughed.
As if all of that isn’t enough Sandy, a self-confessed perfectionist, also uses an intensive distillation method and is meticulous in choosing the perfect cut points so that every bottle of Granite North is as delightful as the last:
“It’s so important not to be too greedy when choosing cut points.
“I only ever use the middle portion of the distillation – not the beginning or the end – because that’s where you lose flavour and texture and while there are some really fantastic gins out there I think that this is what sets Granite North apart from the others, you won’t find another gin, with as fresh a flavour or that’s as creamy and smooth as this one.”
Sandy doesn’t plan to stop there either, now that he has perfected the recipe for Granite North and with the distillery well underway, he says there are likely to be new spirits and flavours on the horizon soon enough – but he’d rather keep them shrouded in mystery for the time being.
Here at Flavourly, we’re excited to keep watching on as this dynamic duo strive to achieve even more, but for the moment, we’re content to keep sipping on their delightful Granite North gin.