Our Northwest Passage Expedition Gin has won a gold award in the ultra-premium category at The Spirits Business’ 2021 Gin Masters awards.
This year’s competition recorded 472 entries from 233 companies – making it the biggest competition in The Global Spirits Masters series to date.
Each spirit was judged in a two-day blind tasting event in London, chaired by The Spirits Business and a panel of leading spirits specialists.
Launched late last year as a collaboration between Orkney Distilling and the Northwest Passage Expedition team, the gin’s unique flavours are drawn from Sugar Kelp, Angelica Archangelica, Ramanas Rose, and Burnet Rose.
Orkney boasts a strong connection to the history of Arctic exploration, water used during distillation sourced from the same well that early explorers - such as Captain’s Sir James Cook and Sir John Franklin - used to stock their ships in Orkney.
The Northwest Passage Expedition itself is an attempt to be the first to the row the 3,700km arctic route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Jack Hopkins, one of the eight crew members embarking on the expedition, was delighted to learn of the gin’s success: "To see Northwest Passage Expedition Gin win Gold in the The Spirits Business "Gin Master” is amazing. We have had so many great comments about our gin since it was launched and to be recognised by this award is really exciting.
We hope the award will help us market the gin to a wider audience and in doing so help us raise the funds needed for the expedition as well as help us with our goal of supporting Big Blue Ocean Cleanup, the marine conservation organisation.
We have to thank Stephen Kemp and the team at Orkney Distillery for all the support we have received and making this all possible.”
The gold award is the first formal recognition for Northwest Passage Expedition Gin, and the third award picked up by The Orkney Distillery in 2021 after both Beyla and Kirkjuvagr tasted success earlier this year.
If you’re ready to be transported back to the Age of Discovery, Northwest Passage Expedition Gin is available online now!
Later this month a crew from the Northwest Passage Expedition team will be rowing from Newcastle upon Tyne to Kirkwall as part of their training for next year’s world-first row along the Arctic’s Northwest Passage.
The expedition teamed up with The Orkney Distillery last year to launch Northwest Passage Expedition Gin to help fund the arctic expedition and support the team’s marine conservation partners, Big Blue Ocean Cleanup.
The gin’s recipe includes botanicals from the shores of both Orkney and Canada’s Hudson Bay, including Sugar Kelp which was hand-collected by Orkney Distilling’s Managing Director, Stephen Kemp, and local expedition crew member, Davie Flett.
Orkney-based Davie is one of eight crew members taking part in the expedition, with the crew aiming to become the first to the row the 3,700km arctic route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
The team are set to leave Newcastle on 19th July and are expected to complete the 350-mile journey to Kirkwall in 7-10 days. Eyemouth, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen have been identified as weather-permitting stop off points along the route.
The crew will be training in Avalon - a 44ft, eight crew rowing boat – and will be visible from the Scottish coast for most of the journey. Their progress throughout can be tracked via Marine Traffic’s website or app – just search the boat’s Automatic Identification System callsign, ‘Avalon’.
Speaking ahead of the trip north, expedition Leader Leven Brown said: "We are delighted to start our offshore training with a row from Newcastle upon Tyne to Kirkwall. Each of the crew have been training on their own under covid restrictions and with those gradually being lifted now is a chance to bring the team together.
The row to Orkney is a challenge in its own right and will help with team bonding and developing the appropriate skills required for the arctic expedition. The 44ft Avalon is a beast of a rowing boat, designed with the Northwest Passage in mind, and I am looking forward to seeing how the crew work together.
Hopefully the conditions will be fair but being prepared for the unexpected is part of our training. We are also excited about visiting the Orkney Distillery in Kirkwall, who are supporting us by producing our Northwest Passage Expedition Gin, that should make for a great night.”
For those looking to taste the gin and unlock their spirit of adventure, Northwest Passage Expedition Gin is available through our shop here!
Lily, our Visitor Experience Manager, will usually be your first point of call when you visit or contact us at The Distillery here in Kirkwall. When she’s not busy processing your online orders or replying to customer queries, you can find her leading guided tours and sharing the story of Kirkjuvagr in the distillery visitor centre!
When did you first join the Kirkjuvagr Team?
I joined Orkney Distilling in September 2019, with over 7 years’ experience in the tourism industry. I had previously worked at a Prehistoric tomb and visitors centre and was delighted to be offered a position at the Distillery, still within the tourism sector. I feel that the work here is so variable, each day brings new opportunities and challenges so it keeps my role interesting!
What does a typical day at The Orkney Distillery look like for you?
I usually start my day with a coffee and managing our online enquiries in relation to the store, tours, and general enquiries. Followed by the processing and dispatch of personal consumer orders.
My afternoons are spent setting up and leading guided tours of our Distillery.
This is my favourite part of my day, I can spend my time entertaining and enlightening our visitors, telling them the saga of Orkney Distilling.
How have the ongoing effects of COVID-19 affected your role and what are you most excited about now that restrictions are beginning to ease?
At first, I was sadly furloughed due to a pre-existing health condition, it was hard to spend such a long time away from work not knowing when I would be back again.
After 3 months of furlough, I was back. Although it took quite a while to settle into a new ‘Covid-friendly’ routine here at the Distillery. The tour layout has had to change to abide by Scottish Government guidelines, we currently utilize the front bar and gift shop as the tour area, as we cannot allow for visitors to travel through the working Distillery during an ongoing pandemic.
This did impact on my tours quite drastically, but we were optimistic and thankful that we could still welcome visitors on occasion.
I am looking forward to being able to run guided tours of the Distillery again, taking visitors through the working Distillery and showing them all there is behind-the-scenes here at Orkney Distilling.
What made you decide to start your own gin company?
We’d been travelling to various events and weddings quite a lot in 2015, and new and interesting craft gins were appearing all around the country. At that time, a strongly branded gin was notably absent in Orkney, so we set about developing a new gin brand that was unmistakably Orcadian.
What has been your biggest highlight in business since starting your company?
Opening the Orkney Distillery was a massive achievement for us, as we’d wanted from the outset to create a flagship home for Kirkjuvagr, and it took a lot of work in a short time to get there within two years of launching our first gin!
Opening our more recent ‘garden bar’ called Oot the Back was also thrilling last year, as we emerged from Lockdown. The Team all put in such an effort to create a truly unique and amazing offering, and we’re really proud of the result!
What is your favourite gin from the Kirkjuvagr range?
Aly: Beyla. For me, this is probably the one that I influenced the most, and I absolutely love the soft pink colour tone!
Stephen: I can’t say I have a specific favourite, as I like them all, and I find that tastes can change depending on the weather, your surroundings, mood, etc etc! Right now though, I’m really enjoying our Northwest Passage Expedition Gin. It’s been great to have an opportunity to support the Expedition, and our local friend Davie Flett (who’s one of the rowers) and I went to Birsay and harvested sugar kelp that we used as a botanical, so tasting the result really is very satisfying.
We’ve tasted double success at Orkney Distilling recently as both the World Gin Awards and London Spirits Competition announced the award winners for their respective 2021 events.
Beyla – which is created by adding Orcadian honey and Scottish raspberries to Orkney Distilling’s legendary Kirkjuvagr Gin – earned a silver award in the Old Tom Gin category at the 2021 World Gin Awards.
The World Gin Awards commend the best gins in the world, with entries from across the globe tasted by an expert judging panel to decide the world’s best.
The 2021 event received a record-breaking number of entries, with organisers confirming more than 800 gins had been submitted.
The silver award is the third award Beyla has won since it was introduced into our range in 2019, following on from a bronze award in the 2020 World Gin Awards and winning the new product award at the 2019 Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards.
Elsewhere, our original Kirkjuvagr gin picked up a silver medal in the 2021 London Spirits Competition.
Where other competitions focus solely on technical competence and distilling prowess, the London Spirits Competitions goes further to evaluate a spirit for its all-around excellence - the way it tastes, looks and the value it provides.
The London Spirit Competition medal is the latest recognition for our signature gin, having previously been successful at the Scottish Gin Awards, World Gin Awards and the Great Taste food and drink awards.
Speaking after the list of winners was revealed, our Events & Marketing Manager, Anna Younie, was proud to see Kirkjuvagr recognised alongside the world’s biggest gin brands:
“It's always really exciting to hear of our gins receiving awards! It really is so rewarding to know our hard work as a small, craft distillery is recognised amongst names of some bigger, more well-known brands, and it pushes us to continue to produce quality products that are well received not just by judges at competitions like these, but by our valued customers too!”To celebrate our success, both Beyla and the original Kirkjuvagr have 15% off from now until Monday. So why not head over to our shop now – the discount will be automatically applied at the checkout!
We’re moving towards a greener future, thanks to a new joint project with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) investigating hydrogen heating as a clean fuel solution in the distilling process.
Orcadians have been at the forefront of energy innovation now for generations, and we are extremely pleased to be a part of this collaboration, which will serve to strengthen connections between EMEC’s ground-breaking green hydrogen development and the local distillery sector.
The project known as HySpirits 2 has received £58,781 of funding from the UK Government’s Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to produce a feasibility study, looking at technologies that would enable us to use hydrogen as a fuel source in the distillery.
The partnership includes Edinburgh Napier University, with their industrial decarbonisation team leading the pilot study design and hydrogen technology assessments. Technologies being looked at include thermal fluid technology, steam technology, direct burn technology and dual fuel technology. Following assessment, the optimal technology pathway will be chosen and used to design a demonstration project to be considered for Phase 2 funding to use the solution in a real-world context.
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, said:
“Building back greener from the pandemic is something we can all raise a toast to. Every business can play a part in the green industrial revolution and this funding will allow UK distilleries to lead the way by making their production cleaner while also creating jobs.”
James Walker, Hydrogen Manager at EMEC, said:
“Hydrogen offers a potentially very compelling alternative fuel for producing high grade heat in industry. With many distilleries located in remote areas off the natural gas network and using fuel oils to generate process heat for malting and distilling, there is great scope for applying the findings from our project to a cross section of the wider industry.”
Professor John Currie, Director of the Scottish Energy Centre at Edinburgh Napier University, said:
“Industrial fuel switching, in order to lower carbon emissions, provides a significant challenge, particularly in the food and drink sector. This project brings together a partnership which will focus on assessing a range of viable technology options that give the greatest emissions reductions for distillers. Ensuring commercial viability through to a fully sustainable end product will lay the path towards the future of green distilling.”