Most of Scotland’s new or craft distilleries distil gin. A few make their spirit from scratch, but many use supplied bulk grain spirit and, through a process of diluting, re-distilling and infusing their own botanicals, create the final product.
However, Highland Boundary distillery, located at Kirklandbank farm high above Alyth in Perthshire, has set out to distil what they term “wild Scottish spirits” in the former milking parlour. The brainchild of partners Marian Bruce and Simon Montador, the tiny distillery has a 100-litre, pot-bellied, minaret-topped, alembic still from Portugal, plus cooling worm, a small bottling line, freezers for herbs and botanicals, plus all other equipment in one compact building.
Their initial spirit, marketed in half-litre bottles labelled Birch and Elderflower, will be followed by two other spirits, being developed in cooperation with Herriot-Watt University, with possible further ones planned. The spirit is being distributed and sold by Stirling-based wine and spirit merchants Woodwinters, aimed at hotels and bars as well as the retail trade.
Starting with bought-in neutral spirit, the Birch and Elderflower undergoes a four-stage production sequence of dilution, maceration, distillation and infusion. Based on research and first-hand experience, the distinct flavours are added during two stages, maceration and infusion, this two-stage procedure being seen as vital to obtain the final flavour. The bottled spirit is heady, clear and moreish and definitely different.
The gas-heated copper still and worm apart, all other vessels and containers are stainless steel. But Marian certainly emphasises the distillery’s green credentials. The birch buds and elderflower are Scottish, some locally picked, water comes from an on-site spring and the bottle stoppers are cork and wood. One planned future spirit will be matured in casks, and these will be Scottish virgin oak.
Marian and Simon appear born entrepreneurs. Their former farmhouse is now luxury holiday accommodation, and their firm Driftwood Scotland offers unique driftwood sculptures made from 4000-year-old trees rediscovered in peat bogs. And they haven’t given up farming—they have a flock of “Rockies”, or very rare Hebridean sheep, seen feeding contentedly downhill from the farm. However, right now the Highland Boundary distillery is their main focus.
I asked whether they saw their new creation as pre- or after-dinner. A pause, then, “Mm, we see it as a digestif.”