Kirkwall is the focus of a number of exciting building projects at the moment, including Orkney’s new hospital and the transformation of the former County Library in the town centre.
But Kirkwall’s harbour-front is welcoming its own new development. Next year the doors will open to Orkney Distilling Ltd’s new distillery, the home of Kirkjuvagr Gin.
It has been an incredibly busy year for the company, run by husband and wife team Stephen and Aly Kemp. The business was established in January 2016, the first bottles of its signature gin were on the shelves by August, and now the distillery building is only a number of months away from its official opening.
‘The response to our gins has been great and we’re already exploring new markets and beginning to export,’ said Stephen. ‘We quickly reached the stage where we needed a platform to promote our brand and a place for people to come to taste and experience our gin and our process. That’s where the whole concept for the inclusion of the visitor experience project came from.’
The building will not only become a base for the production of Kirkjuvagr Gin, plus the company’s other products, including the newly-launched Arkh Angell ‘Storm Strength’ Gin. It will house a coffee bar, a shop and a private function room for special tasting events. Key to the whole project however will be regular tours of the distillery, and the increase in visitor numbers and the continued growth of Orkney’s cruise ship trade have played a major factor in the planning process.
‘The development of cruise ship traffic in Orkney really helped give us the confidence to go ahead with this project,’ said Stephen. ‘It’s an increasing market and for us, having access to that potential footfall, is a massive boost.’
There will also be a focus on the local market and the traditional visitor to the islands but, according to Stephen, the cruise ship sector will provide the base for the business to grow. ‘I think we’ll be at our busiest when we see the bookings for tours and visits from cruise operators,’ he said. ‘That market eliminates a degree of risk for us, and it also influenced our decision to build on this site. It’s right on the harbour-front in Kirkwall and we hope that it will help bring visitors to our door.’
To most people, the launch of a brand-new product and the associated marketing, branding and promotion would be enough of a challenge. Add in the expansion of the range and a project to build a new distillery, all within little more than a year and half, and you quickly realise how much Stephen and Aly and their team have achieved in such a short space of time.
‘It has been a completely new experience for us and we have learnt a lot on the way,’ said Stephen. ‘But we knew that if we didn’t go for it we would have regretted it. Now the focus is on providing a high-quality visitor experience that we feel will offer the very best kind of advertising for us, promoting our products and our islands to visitors from around the world.’
With the frame of the new building up, floors in place and a lift shaft already installed, everything is moving quickly. Stephen and Aly are working closely with their design team and industry experts to pull together the finer details of the new build.
What is for sure is that the distillery will be another special attraction for visitors to Orkney, no matter how they arrive.