Meet the founder of Rock Rose Gin
Hello! Please could you start off by introducing yourself.
My name is Martin Murray and I am the proud owner of Dunnet Bay Distillers Ltd. We distil Rock Rose Gin in Caithness at the most northerly mainland distillery, which we designed and built last year.
For the past 10 years, I have worked in the Oil and Gas Industry. I grew tired of being away from my home and family, so I decided to return to my passion of brewing and distilling.
Would you like to tell our readers why Rock Rose Gin is so unique?
Well, I am the only person in the whole wide world that knows our recipe. Unlike a lot of small distilleries, we developed the recipe in-house. It took about 18 months, 80 botanicals and 55 experiments! As you can imagine we were very popular!
We read that you left behind a successful career in the oil and gas industry. Why did you decide to take the plunge into the world of entrepreneurship?
The big appeal was moving home and having the challenge of creating a business from scratch. As an engineer, I had the full responsibility for the start-up of the distillery. It was a huge challenge, but it was immensely satisfying to see the first drops of gin being produced.
Now that you’re in it, what do you enjoy most about the entrepreneur lifestyle?
I like the adventure of the entrepreneur. Don’t get me wrong there is a lot of paperwork and routines to follow, but we have had some amazing visitors pop in to the distillery. In addition, I make the decisions on all the things related to production, which means I have to solve all of the problems - but I love that part of running a distillery.
Why do you think gin has suddenly found its way back to the top amongst young drinkers in the UK?
The quality of gin has improved, and consumers are now well educated on tonics, garnishes and glassware. With gins now being sold as perfect serves, consumers are getting to try the gins at their best. I think this has been the biggest factor in young drinkers turning their attention to gin.
Is there a certain aspect of marketing that you’ve found to be particularly successful for Rock Rose Gin?
You will need to ask my wife, Claire. She is the brain behind all things marketing. My own belief is that we have thousands of brand ambassadors across the world. These are all the people who belong to Caithness that have really got behind us.
How do you go about getting your product stocked by a major retailer?
Actually we’ve never really asked anyone to stock our gin! I know that sounds absurd, but from day 1 we have sold from word-of-mouth or thanks to the wholesalers that we work with.
What was the process from conception to launch like for you guys?
We spent a long time working on the gin recipe and the business plan. Once these became more certain we then had to find a site, build a distillery, and create a brand. This was really challenging as you had to switch your focus between different areas. For example, one day I remember calculating the cooling water requirement to cool the still, then picking a tap for the sink, then deciding on the colour of the windows and choosing a bottle design. It was bonkers!
It’s quite a strange feeling. We spent years looking at our distillery on paper, but when you see the building being built, it only then starts to feel real. When the still arrived it became a mixture of emotion - from extreme excitement to worry.
Do you have any plans for expansion, or do you feel that would damage the Rock Rose Gin brand?
We want to stay small as a business, as we love our roles and don’t want to distance ourselves by becoming too big. We set-up the business so that we could have control of our work life balance with our children, and rapidly growing our business would probably break this. That’s just not going to happen. Our business focus will be on making better quality spirits that have a tie to Caithness. Our limited editions from our geodome and gardens will capture the imagination of drinks enthusiasts.
What does the next 12 months have in store for you?
An amazing vodka, that will stand out in the vodka category and the limited editions created for our shop. We will have fun experimenting as ever! I have just created a lavender and apple gin – it’s quite something!