In this fortnightly series, Rebecca Shearer finds some of the best food and drink experiences across the country that should be on everyone’s bucket list. To kick it off, Alex Christou from Eight Lands talks about his new VIP experience you won’t want to miss.
Experiences associated with locally-distilled drinks aren’t all that hard to come by in Scotland, with many of the nation’s abundance of distilleries offering tours and similar experiences for visitors.
And with our freedom almost back after more than a year in lockdown, more and more of us foodies are looking for ways we can “experience” our beloved food and drink.
A new experience for distillery fans has launched, courtesy of Eight Lands at the family-owned Glenrinnes Distillery in Keith, Moray.
Alex Christou, the founder of Eight Lands vodka and gin products, has created the VIP experience this summer, building upon a successful launch night he had in 2019.
He said: “When we launched Eight Lands in June 2019 when we invited some drinks trade press and media to come and visit the distillery. The experience we put on for them formed the template of what we are doing now for the public.
“It felt as though a big part of our story/brand was around where we’re from and the fact we are organic in terms of our farm. Trying to piece that together into an interesting offering to appeal to people who want something a bit different seemed like a natural progression.
“I know that some of the whisky distilleries offer more bespoke options on top of their basic ones and I know that the area brings in a lot of tourists during normal times.
“Looking at what was out there in terms of white spirits, ourselves obviously making both gin and vodka, we felt this was something that would really compliment the wider offering in Moray and the north-east.”
Taking in the Glenrinnes Estate and the stunning views that surround it, as well as a bespoke distillery tour, Alex and his team are offering an experience that allows people to fully immerse themselves in the local offering.
“The experiences will be tailored to what people want and when,” he continued. “We have a foundation package but then, beyond that, we can add on other bespoke elements.
“Normally, for the foundation package, guests will start at the estate office with our estate manager Alistair Laing. He’ll show you around the estate, talk a little about why we’re organic and why that’s different – we’ve been farming organically for about 20 years now.
“Then we also have the access rights up Ben Rinnes so if the weather is nice we will drive people up there as it’s quite a walk.
“We make sure we have a flask of tea or coffee or whatever they want, to have a look at the views – if it’s a clear day then Alistair will point out the surrounding eight counties that inspired the Eight Lands name.
“After that you’ll head down to the distillery and that’s where we do a tour with Meeghan and the team, who talk about our production methods, why our spirits taste like they do, and do some nosing and tasting.
“Then we’ll provide a light lunch tailored to the dietary requirements of the group along with a gin and tonic, vodka and tonic or whatever people want.
“One of our signature serves is a frozen vodka measure (which closes off the flavour) in a scone with clotted cream and either bramble or blackcurrant jam.
“It takes about four hours when you factor in lunch, the estate bit and the distillery bit as well. We can flip this on its head depending on what time of day people are coming, so if someone wanted to start with the lunch and then do the estate bit afterwards, we can do that.”
VIP experience and add ons
According to Alex, the VIP tours are bespoke and nature-lovers, thrill-seekers and food fans are all taken into consideration with other optional elements available to add, such as clay pigeon shooting, other distillery tours or ArgoCat riding.
Alex added: “If someone wanted to add on clay pigeon shooting for instance, I’d have a chat to our estate manager who will chat to the relevant gamekeeper and they will set up the clay pigeon track.
“We can fill a whole day with activities if people want to add on clay pigeon shooting, or ArgoCat driving where we can set up a little obstacle course, or if they want a full dinner in the distillery, we can bring in caterers.”
Standard tours are also available for £15 per person for 45 minutes, and can be booked online, for people who just want to learn more about the distillery and the Eight Lands products.
Alex said: “With our standard package, people can come in for a tour and a tasting and that’s bookable on the website, which we run on specific days, really for production reasons.
“Whereas when we do the VIP tours, we set aside the time because it’s a larger undertaking. So we will look at dates with the client and make sure we can deliver a great experience for them.
“If someone said they’d like to do something in particular such as wanting to visit a whisky distillery as well, we’ve got a lot of good relationships locally with neighbouring distilleries and hotels so we’re always happy to pick up the phone on behalf of one of our guests and try to make sure we can piece things together.”
VIP Experiences must be booked on the Eight Lands website here and are priced at £200 per person for approximately four hours. Groups are no larger than eight people.