Gin micro-distillery to be built at Cladach

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Arran is to get its very own gin distillery which will be built on the beachfront at Cladach.

One year on from launching Arran’s first and only craft gin, the Arran Gin team is now forging ahead with plans to expand into a purpose-built micro-distillery and visitor experience – in one of the most idyllic settings on the island.

The company has bought the former Nature Centre which will be knocked down to make way for the new development, which it is hoped could open next year.

A clear ambition of the group from the outset was that gin production should be on Arran, as well as a contemporary visitor experience,  preferably in close proximity to the ferry for easy access, whether by car, bikes, walking and even traffic from the sea.

Stuart Fraser of Arran Gin said: ‘The goal was to create a physical space that reflects the brand and the gin itself: bold and distinct. We also wanted something that reflects the landscape: beautiful; unique; a connection to nature.

‘When we saw that the old Nature Centre was on the market last year, we took a gamble and decided to just go for it. We didn’t have any firm plans or even funding in place, but we could see the potential, and the area is spectacular.

The Cladach beachfront location is not without its challenges. We’re keenly aware of the rising sea levels and the significant flooding and erosion in the area – so first on the list is looking into mitigating flood risk, and making sure we build up on stilts of some description. We respect the challenges of nature, and we’re going to work with it, not against it.

‘Leading the design project, Ann Nisbet is one of Scotland’s leading young award-winning architects, and someone who sees the potential and even the fun in working with the elements to create something truly modern and yet in keeping with nature – so important for a botanically-minded business. Sadly, the existing [wooden] building won’t be given any planning permission and will be replaced by something more fit for purpose – but in keeping with the site.’

Stuart explained how it will work: ‘An exciting business model has been developed with a Gin School and foraging trips, giving visitors a chance to experience both the botanical collection side of the business and the crafting of the gin.

‘This is a fully interactive experience where you’ll come with us on a foraging walk, we’ll guide you on the range of botanicals you can taste and distill. You’ll then bring your harvests back to the distillery where we teach you to make your own gin on the day, and you’ll leave with a bespoke bottle. A perfect gift.

‘It is easy to envisage groups and corporate bookings, as well as family day-trippers for the half-day foraging-trips and gin school sessions. People are looking for different kinds of experiences coming to destinations such as ours. They want enrichment and fun. As well as the distillery itself and Gin School, there will be a tasting bar, coffees and snacks, an outdoor deck and seating, and a community space for pop-up events and hospitality.

‘We’re not putting a firm date on opening, we’ll just try to get the doors open as soon as we can. There’s lots of work to do and there will be a crowdfunding element which will bring some investment into completing the project, with some fantastic rewards and offers for participants.

‘And as for the burning question of what happens to the dinosaur?’ – don’t worry we’re planning to protect it or relocate if the tide takes its toll,’ Stuart added.

First gin event at Cladach

This weekend are big days on the Arran Gin team’s calendar. Saturday sees their participation in a gin-tasting event at the Wineport with several other regional gin producers. There will be food, music and, of course, lots of gins to taste, and learn about. Arran Gin team members will be on-hand to discuss their building plans.

Sunday will see a beach party taking place on the Cladach site of the new distillery. Before initial groundwork begins, the team is going to host a series of fun pop-up events on the site, to draw attention to their plans for the distillery and Gin School venture. To begin the pop-ups, the team are hosting a beach party, complete with fun cocktails, and G&Ts; Robin Gray’s BBQ; Blackwater backhouse treats, and some music and games. It’s family friendly – although over-18s only at the gin bar!

Hoping for sunshine, but sounds like a fun afternoon regardless. The event runs from 1-6pm at the old nature centre, next to the Mountain Rescue Centre, Cladach.