Since starting his business in his garden shed, a lot has changed for Pete Dignan and craft spirits company Lost Loch Distillery.
Now operating in a 245-square metre distillery warehouse at Deeside Activity Park which he and his business partner Richard Pearce invested in last year, the duo – who brought Scotland’s first absinthe to market – now produce three different spirits, one being their award-winning EeNoo gin.
Pete said: “I’d been making Haroosh (a whisky liqueur) in my shed in January last year and I realised there was a bit of a market for craft products. I didn’t have the capital alone to build the distillery so I roped in one of my friends Richard Pearce and between the two of us we spent the first six months building the facility.
“We built everything, including the mezzanine level. We finished this around September time and we launched our Murmichan absinthe in October last year. In the background we were always working on our gin and it was launched in February this year.”
Both still working offshore, the duo continue to work in the North Sea while devoting their downtime on dry land to growing their brand and developing new, exciting products.
“I work for Bibby Offshore and Richard works for ConocoPhillips. In the downturn we’ve found we work less offshore so I get around nine months of working at home on the business which seems to work really well.
“The two of us are part-time with the business at the moment but we’re looking for brand ambassadors and my wife’s sister works on our marketing which is great. Both our wives also help out with the company, too. It’s very much a family business.”
Having introduced Scotland’s first absinthe to the market last year, Lost Loch Distillery specialises in a variety of different products – with hopes of bringing additional spirits on to the market by the end of the year.
“The gin is produced on a 500l still and the absinthe on a 50l still. Absinthe is such a distinctive flavour and it’s now finding its home in the bar trade and further afield. At the moment we’re experimenting and barrel ageing absinthe in Tomintoul whisky casks which is a world first – no one’s ever done a whisky cask with absinthe and it’s actually tasting amazing. We’re hoping to maybe do a small batch for Christmas which is very exciting.
“We’re also currently working on another gin and we’ll be working on a rum soon too. We’re hoping to get another two or three gins on to the market in the near future so it’s all hands on deck just now.”
Picking up awards for its EeNoo gin, the ever-popular spirit is still one of the company’s main focuses for product development with its continued demand across the UK and abroad.
“Gin is really the spirit that’s selling a lot. We sell about 500 bottles per month. We’ve got the capacity to produce around 80,000 bottles a year of gin but we don’t push anything near that. Winning awards has been great for us, and getting recognised for taste is even better. We’ve got some real palatable spirits so it’s nice to get that recognition.”
But it’s not just their products the duo at Lost Loch Distillery work on. The business has also managed to secure a number of contract jobs which allows them to create other spirits for businesses who don’t have the facilities to do so.
“Right now we’re working on a few contract projects which is very exciting. We’re making different products like gins, vodkas and some we can’t speak about, but there’s lots happening on that side of things. We get to work on our own stuff while others come and use our facilities. It’s great to be able to help some people who were in the same position as we were two years ago.”
And with a massive distillery space for the company to grow into, it’s no surprise Pete and Richard are already thinking of the bigger picture – capturing the growing tourism market.
“We’ve got the additional space we can move into which is great. Everything is done in-house which is really cool and we want to be able to showcase that. We only use a third of the space, but we’ll be looking to launch a gin school and set up a tasting centre. For us it’s the tourism side that’s next. It’s a major part of the region just now.
“We get a lot of interest from abroad and people visiting and just popping in when they’re in the area. So many people want to spend the day here. We’re pretty much on the North Coast 250 route which is also great and something we want to tap into. We really want to pair up with the businesses around us to create a tourist space so they can come and find out how to make gin or find out how we make Scotland’s only absinthe. We’ll definitely have a lot more products coming out too.”
But the real highlight for Pete is seeing his handmade product hit shelves locally and nationally.
He said: “There’s been so many ups and downs but getting to see your product in shops has got to be the real highlight. The experimenting has been so much fun and figuring out what works. Having our own facility to do so really makes a difference. It’s a chemistry set for adults!
“We distribute across Scotland at the moment and we’ve got about 70 retail outlets and 35 bars across the country. That’s through our distributors and ourselves. There’s a few places in London that now have it and by employing a brand ambassador in the north of England we’ll soon be tapping into that market, too. Exporting is also something we’re looking into – primarily Europe and Japan will be our two main targets so we’re hoping to have bottles out there in the next few months.”