MEET THE TEAM SERIES
In the latest instalment of our ‘Meet the Team’ series we catch up with one of the Arbikie founders David Stirling.
Tell us a bit about your background?
I studied law and then worked at KPMG before starting a Brand Strategy, Design and Marketing Company and Stirling&Stirling, a high-end 24/7-concierge service. I am also proud to be a founding investor of a contemporary Scottish Gastropub located in the West Village of New York City, which is still thriving after 8 years.
What’s your role at Arbikie?
Brand Director & Ambassador
Why did you decide to start Arbikie?
Scotland has a world-class reputation in the drinks industry. My brothers and I saw a real opportunity to build on this reputation by creating Scotland’s first single estate distillery to produce both white and brown spirits that will grow all its own ingredients, ferment, distil, bottle, label and mature on site. The location of our distillery means we have access to ‘Scotland’s Larder’, clear Highland waters, rich crops and temperamental climate, coupled with the region’s renowned whisky heritage, the opportunity to produce a new generation of exceptional quality spirits was obvious.
What’s the best aspect of working at Arbikie?
Initially seeing the brand ideas and concepts come to fruition, from the written word and drawings, to our product on the shelf. I love hearing from consumers about the excitement and enthusiasm they have for our spirits after learning about our ‘farm to bottle’ provenance and tasting our world-class artisanal products.
What’s your favourite Arbikie drink?
There are so many but I would have to go with the ‘Arbikie Martini’, which is delicious! An honorable mention to the Arbikie Summer Highballer with Arbikie Vodka, homemade Blackberry & Heather Honey liqueur, topped up with ice and ginger ale.
What makes Arbikie different?
Our story is authentic. It truly starts in the field. It is not something that has been dreamed up in a marketing department. As a result our enthusiastic supporters understand and appreciate the knowledge and hard work we put into all stages of our farm to bottle production.
Consumers are undoubtedly taking a greater interest in the provenance of their food and spirits. This is influencing what spirits they are buying. Consumers want to know more about what they’re eating and drinking – fresh ingredients that are nutritious, safe and the ability to trace their origins.
How important is the environment of Angus in producing Arbikie spirits?
Arbikie is blessed with extraordinary terroir. The finest growing soils in the UK are complemented by the natural elements of this area. Water sources and their unique and distinctive attributes, have a huge impact on the specific flavors and qualities of spirits from around the world. Our crystal clear Highland waters are fantastic for spirit making.
Our philosophy is all about quality and taste. Our spirits are a unique taste of the land on which they were made.
What is Farm to Bottle?
The Arbikie distillig method is based on the traditional ‘farm-to-bottle’ methods of Scotch whisky distilling which we apply to the production of all our spirits. In simple terms we grow all the ingredients, distill, mature and bottle all on one location.
For instance, as farmers, we treat potatoes the same way wine makers treat grapes. Noting the aspects of each variety and the vintage. Each of our species of potatoes contributes subtle nuances to enhance the final flavour of our spirits. Growing the base ingredients is almost as important as distilling. It’s very much a labour of love. We do not to use Neutral Grain Spirit (NGS), which is imported from, all over the world. Arbikie makes all their spirits from scratch. Full stop.
What we’re doing makes our vodka and gin comparable quality and depth to Scotch. We bottle here too. So there is complete control and a genuine authenticity to what we do and that makes a difference to the quality and the taste.
How have people reacted to this?
Bar owners and mixologists are thrilled with the quality and complexities of our spirits. There is also genuine interest in learning more about the provenance of our products. Sommeliers also recognize the similarities (family owned, estate grown and premium point) between our Single Estate and the Single Vineyard.
Foodies love our story. In the wake of the horsemeat scandal in 2013, foodies are more likely to look for products of British, local and regional origin. We feel we are part of the same community championing eating, drinking locally and spending locally. The great ecologist, Wendell Berry once wrote that nature is not just out there in fields, the woods, but also in our gardens and on our plates – “Eating is an agricultural act,” – and in a way all our work with our spirits has been an exploration of that powerful idea.
Outside of the business what do you do for fun?
Enjoying quality time with my family and friends, exploring new cultures, food and drink! I enjoy all sports including rugby, football, golf and sailing
What does the rest of the family think about Arbikie?
They see it as an incredible opportunity and challenge.
What are the biggest challenges working for a start up distillery?
Ensuring our brand and product are consistently on point when engaging with our customers. Enriching them with a fabulous experience. Being personal, attentive and knowledgeable.
What’s the best part of your job?
Being part of team. Jumping in, asking questions, getting my feet wet. Getting my hands dirty. Tasting things. Smelling things. Seeing things from the outside. Seeing things from the inside. Meeting new people. Observing and learning. Sharing. Being passionate and enjoying the laughter and fun that goes with it.