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Sub-heading: Visitor centre takes shape at beach house
By Hugh Boag
The Arran Gin micro-distillery and visitor centre are set to open in 2020 in what will be a big year for company.
Work is progressing well at their new headquarters at Cladach with a view to having the visitor centre fully up and running next spring with full distillery production following closely thereafter.
And in an exciting development the Isle of Arran Gin Company Ltd are about to change their name to Arran Botanical Drinks Ltd as they plan to diversify the business beyond gin.
Already production has started on, the soon to be available, Arran Cassis – made from blackcurrants picked in Whiting Bay – and this is to be followed next year by a soft drink, made from the same botanicals gathered on Arran, as used to make the distinctive island gin.
All the distilling will be based at the site of the former Arran Nature Centre at Cladach which the gin company bought last May. It will see Arran Gin produced and bottled on the island, which has been the plan since it was first launched early last year.
Having renovated the building the company were committed to retaining and re-working an artisan work space with real history and heritage. To be called The Cladach Beach House, the rustic-cabin space is both contemporary in styling, yet speaks to a rustic, artisanal experience. They believe it is a perfect space for their drinks laboratory which is being created in the visitor centre.
The gin team aims to create several revenue streams with an emphasis on production and visitor experience. The team wants its visitors to be at the centre of their operation, so Gin School classes, foraging trips and tours and tastings will be the core of the visitor experience.
Whilst the site is more suited to a spring, summer, autumn experience, they do intend to have year-round offerings for visitors, including a small coffee shop, and drinks production will be a year-round operation.
Present owners Stuart Fraser, George Grassie and New York based Ross Hamilton have invested their own money in the business and all profits which have been made so far have been ploughed back into the business. But they now recognise the need for outside investment in order to realise their ambitions to make something truly special happen at Cladach.
So why expand beyond gin?
Suart explained: ‘Realising that the craft gin sector was becoming increasingly overcrowded, the gin team took the view that they needn’t restrict themselves to producing gin. Island botanicals are at the centre of their production, but these botanicals can be used for a range of products. The new Cassis is 100 per cent Whiting Bay blackcurrant mixed with our favourite Cote de Rhone. There is no gin in this drink, and as a Cassis, its sweeter and a real a departure from the big savoury flavours of Arran Gin, which we know is not to everyone’s taste. We always intended to start with something and then change things up after a year or so.’
He said the soft drink for which he and George were ‘playing about with botanicals’ would be an adult drink aimed at the increasing younger market who have little interest in alcohol.
Having a local focus is central to the plans. The gin team has connected with complimentary Arran indie producers to cross-promote their businesses during the successful summer pop-ups. They are now keen to align with more local businesses and local people – making the Cladach space available for certain community events.
On November 8 the beach house hosts local group Forever Aloe Vera, for a skincare and gin-tasting evening. On December 16 the Arran Gift Box team arrives and again, gin bar and tastings will accompany the gift box market. December 12 will see a Christmas wreath-making evening by florist Charlotte Karsemeijer of Charlotte’s Flowers, gain pairing the craft event with a festive G&T.
Stuart said: ‘Events are important to help spread the word, but the key to it all, is the production and innovation that has begun and is set to grow in 2020. Botanical gathering, processing and production in the form of distilling, compounding fruits and creating new flavours is at the centre of our growth plans.
‘When all said and done, its all about the botanicals of Arran, where they come from and their contribution to the taste and production. The fact that our new office is situated in such a beautiful spot is quite a bonus for us, and hopefully a big draw for visitors.’
The popular Arran Nature Centre previously on the site closed in 1984 and the building was sold two years later. It has since been used for a variety of activities, including a bistro and was more recently occupied for 15 years by stained-glass maker, the late Richard Leclerc.
The bar and beyond it what will be the retail area in the beach house. 01_B45gin01
Stuart Fraser behind the bar at the new gin HQ. 01_B45gin02
Stuart outside the seafront beach house at Cladach. 01_B45gin03
Renovation work being undertaken at the beach house. NO_B45gin04
The beach house was completely cleared ahead of the renovation. NO_B45gin05
The shabby chic of the beach house lounge area. NO_B45gin06
A tasting event being held at the beach house. NO_B45gin07