JOHN STIRLING ON BACK TO BASICS
John Stirling, one of the Stirling brothers who co-founded and runs the Arbikie Highland Estate shares his thoughts on why maintaining back to basic principles will deliver first class results for the new premium spirit brand.
John Stirling on building the distillery
My brothers and I have followed different career paths and are now combining our skills at Arbikie. I am a qualified Chartered Accountant and my background is in Economics and Finance.
When we talked about entering into the drinks industry, we decided we would ensure it was done properly and under our control by building our own distillery. I oversaw the finance and build of the project.
As it was our family and nobody else was involved, we forged ahead and have been able to achieve it all in a year. Most similar projects take four to five years to be completed.
A lot of alcohol production is quite industrialised these days and we knew we wanted to do something very different. We decided to go back to the basics with first-class, quality ingredients all grown by ourselves on the Arbikie Highland Estate which has been in our family for four generations.
This appealed to us on many levels; we knew we could grow all the crops, which would ensure premium quality products and we could control the whole production process from start to finish.
We did our research and spoke to experts. We project managed it all, pulling together all the components and expertise and using local suppliers in Angus wherever possible. Now one year on we are operational and are grateful to the many people who gave us their assistance. We converted a building which was previously a dairy. It overlooks Lunan Bay with wonderful views from the windows.
We are all very proud of what has been achieved so far.
John Stirling on the discovery of an ancient map
When we decided to build a distillery, my brothers David, Iain and I decided that we wanted to revive the traditions of the time-honoured art of Scotch whisky, using copper pot stills for the distilling of all our spirits. Using this method gives Arbikie Vodka a comparable quality and depth to Scotch whisky.
You can imagine our excitement when David discovered through an ancient map in the National Library of Scotland that there had been an Arbikie Distillery in the 18th century. We have a copy of the map which dates from 1794. We need to research it further but even at 1794, it would make it Scotland’s fourth oldest distillery.
This reinforced our feeling that we were right in our desire to revive the traditional methods of distilling and to work in harmony with the land. Once we knew that there had been a distillery previously on the estate, we realised there was no further need for any discussion about what we would name the distillery or our products.
John Stirling outlines his vision for the future of Arbikie
One of the great things about being part of a family business is that you have a shared vision. We all want to establish Arbikie as the best distillery there is.
As a family business, we don’t have any external shareholders so we are not absolutely driven by profit. We want to gradually establish our super-premium brands and develop a business that can be around for hundreds of years.
We are confident that we have chosen the right methods and have the right team in place. It is a young distillery and the appointment of Kirsty Black as Master Distiller felt absolutely right to us. She is a very talented young distiller who had already created a gin. We knew she was the perfect person to develop our products and go forward with the distillery.
Social and environmental responsibility is important for us. I really like that we are keeping it simple by growing all our own ingredients and not importing anything.
I am looking forward to establishing our brands without the huge marketing budgets that many other companies have. We plan to do this by providing products of premium quality and building awareness of our farm to bottle process.
Why not try Arbikie yourself? Buy here.