Dunnet Bay Distillery

"We’re delighted to have created so many jobs in a fragile economy."

The creators of Rock Rose Gin and Holy Grass Vodka look back on four whirlwind years of growth and learning.

Company Background

Dunnet Bay Distillery, co-founded by Martin Murray and wife Claire, was set up in 2015. It now has a staff of 16, a healthy export portfolio, and a new shop and tasting room catering to 17,000 visitors each year, many of them attracted by the NC500.

What impact has exporting had on your business?

Two years ago, Dunnet Bay was exporting to five countries with a turnover of just over £1m. Now, its international range extends to 15 countries, including destinations such as Hawaii, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and several European countries. Exporting revenues, which two years ago accounted for 5% of the business, have increased by 50%. Within 16-strong staff, a dedicated team supports international markets.

What challenges did Dunnet Bay Distillery face?

Once production was up and running, moving into new areas to achieve growth objectives presented key challenges.

The business had always planned to export, but as well as lacking skills and knowledge, there was a slight fear factor holding us back in the first year. Thanks to the ever-present support of HIE, the business attended an entrepreneurship masterclass and the Preparing to Export workshop, and was introduced to the range of SDI contacts and expertise necessary for success in the international arena.

Since we visited you in 2016, how has your business grown?

Turnover has doubled to over £2m – but it’s not just exporting that has contributed to the growth. The NC500 has been a game-changer for us. We’re now getting 17,000 visitors a year, and the increased sales have funded the building of the new shop and tasting room.”

Martin also believes that the support of other local businesses is a vital responsibility, contributing to wider economic growth through the stimulation of sales and collaboration.

“We’re delighted to have created so many jobs in a fragile economy,” Martin says. “We take on four students during the summer, involving them in new product launches, events and market visits. Developing young people is very satisfying,” he concludes, “as is becoming ambassadors for other local businesses.

How has HIE continued to support your business?

HIE has supported the business from the very beginning, since Dunnet Bay first acquired planning permission to build the distillery on the site. Their input has been critical in helping the business achieve its aims to date – which it has done within a much shorter timeframe than anticipated.

SDI has also offered steady guidance on finding the right export partner, checking credit ratings, assessing current market conditions and generally making sure the business is making its export overtures in the right places at the right times.

We now feel we have a business that’s functioning the way we always wanted it to.

What advice would you give other companies who are thinking of exporting?

If you’re a bit scared about exporting, don’t be. Just make sure the conditions are on your terms.