Kirkjuvagr will see Scotland’s gin boom stretch as far as Orkney

A couple from Kirkwall are tapping into the Orkney’s Norse heritage with plans to set up a distillery for making their own brand of gin on the islands.

Stephen and Aly Kemp have just applied for planning permission to set up a distillery, visitor centre and shop on a site on Ayre Road in Kirkwall.

The site is owned by Orkney Builders, a construction company controlled by the Kemp family.

If their application is approved by Orkney Islands Council, work on the distillery will start in autumn, with an official opening earmarked for next April.

Mr Kemp said the project would require investment of “a few hundred thousand” pounds.

He added the construction phase would create jobs for eight to 10 people over five months and that he hopes to employ about six people full time once the distillery opens.

Gin has been resurgent in Scotland – the home of whisky – in recent years, with dozens of producers springing up across the country.

About 70% of gin produced in the UK is now made north of the border.

The Kemps have been developing their gin for several months, with help from the Agronomy Institute at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Kirkwall.

They said their gin, which uses ingredients grown on Orkney, would be called Kirkjuvagr – the Norse name for Kirkwall.

The company, which trades under the name Orkney Distilling, will produce the gin on mainland Scotland before moving the process to Kirkwall once the facility is ready.

Mr Kemp said he and his wife were “excited” by their new venture and hoped the distillery and visitor centre would become a new focal point for tourists.

He added: “As gin lovers, we’ve long wondered what it would be like to create a distinctly Orcadian variety, one that could proudly represent the islands in what is a highly competitive but rapidly expanding and exciting marketplace.

“In developing Kirkjuvagr, we were very keen to make some kind of connection with Orkney’s Norse heritage, in addition to the brand’s Viking name, and we like to think we’ve come up with something a bit special in terms of the ingredients.

“We’re keeping the specifics about Kirkjuvagr close to our chest at the moment but all will be revealed in time.

“We’re certainly delighted with our new gin and we’re hoping it’ll go down well in Orkney, and further afield.”

Richard Rooney

Richard Rooney

The Courier's online editor.