This is the first in our new series: ‘Still Stories’. In it we’ll be building up a picture of today’s thriving gin scene by putting the same five questions to some of the most exciting and unique distilleries out there.
Today, we catch up with Peter Dignan, one of the founding partners of Lost Loch Distillery, whose delightful honey-infused gin featured in our August Discovery Box.
Lost Loch was founded in 2017 by Peter and friend Richard Pierce, it is a venture based on their shared passion for history and good quality alcohol. The distillery now produces a number of hand-crafted and unusual drinks, including gin, whisky and absinthe. Each one with a backstory as intriguing as it’s flavour.
In keeping with its founders’ love of history, the distillery takes its name from Loch Auchlossan, one of Scotland’s famous ‘lost’ lochs – the site, on the edge of the Cairngorms national park, was drained in 1944 to make way for the planting of crops during the war. The distillery now sits on what would once have been the banks of this great loch.
Hi Peter, first can you tell us what sets you apart from all the other craft distillers out there?
Our ethos is to be inventive in our thinking, to look at history for inspiration and to produce a range of unique spirits that have local provenance and an international appeal – just words – but we do try and live by them.
We created Murmichan, Scotland’s first Absinthe and are currently ageing Absinthe in whisky casks which, to our knowledge, has never been undertaken before. We are also working on some other interesting projects which we hope to bring to fruition this year, so watch this space. It’s about trying to experiment and be a bit different from our competitors.
How do you come up with ideas for new flavours and recipes?
We read a lot of old books and from there we try and come up with ideas of what flavours would work together. We look for at what the industry isn’t doing and work out if we should do it. We also try and start with local ingredients and build out from there using more foreign ingredients as we need them.
We have two small 10-litre alembic stills and we do all our recipe creation on these. When working on new recipes we run with a 1-litre charge to see how the flavours work together. We then slowly upscale to the 500 litre still. The process involves a lot of tasting which can often mean a wobbly cycle home along the abandoned railway line.
What’s the most unusual thing that’s ever happened at the distillery?
Unusual things happen all the time at the distillery but we often put it down to the fumes and the tasting.
When we were developing the absinthe, we were speaking about it a lot and my 3-year-old son took a liking to the word. He started to tell people how much he loved absinthe which got some strange looks.
Does your still have a name?
Our 500 litre still is called HAL 9000 – from 2001 A Space Odyssey. It’s a computerised system that seems to do what it wants, similar to HAL 9000. We’re learning to get along with each other and it hasn’t tried to blow us into the vacuum of space yet.
Any big plans for the future?
We plan to start work this year on our gin/absinthe school and tasting room and we hope to have this finished early 2019. We are in the process of launching a competition with a unique format. The winners will get to spend the day with us making their own gin. We have quite a few new product launches planned for later this year and 2019.