The essence of a great spirit lies in the stories that fill each bottle. I recently heard the tale of Arbikie Highland Estate, who distills not only premium gin and vodka, but infuses their labours of love with history, heritage and a whole lot of heart.
A few weeks ago, The Tall Hedonist and I received an invite from our friends at Covert Distributions. Even without reading the rest of the email, I already mentally said yes. Covert Distributions pride themselves on quality products and a night hosted by them often means a rare chance to interact with premium world spirits.
I was not disappointed. When I finally got around to reading the rest of the email, I saw we were invited to attend an intimate and exclusive masterclass tasting with Arbikie founder, Iain Stirling, who happened to be in the country for a few days. I immediately replied with a yes, as I’ve found that these smaller experiences often offer opportunities to really get stuck into the stories. A good way to get to know a brand is to know the philosophy behind it; the passion that fuels it, and the dreams that drive it.
I was not going to pass up on the chance to get to know Arbikie’s tale.
Arbikie Estate is a family-owned working farm perched on the east coast of Angus, Scotland. Here, the crop is king. They painstakingly plant, sow, tend and harvest the fields that make up Arbikie. They are craftsmen of the soil.
This is an estate profoundly shaped by its environment: the red sandstone-tinted soil, the powerful sea and the turbulent weather give Arbikie a character found nowhere else. And here, situated where land meets sea, sits our distillery – created from an ancient barn, it is a place with all the ingredients required to produce authentic spirits of the highest quality.
The distilling team is led by their Master Distiller, Kirsty Black (recently listed in the top ten female master distillers in the world by Spirits Business Magazine) and Christian Perez. Together with the Stirling brothers, they ensure that the history, tradition and provenance of Scottish distilling are built into the DNA of every spirit they create (https://www.arbikie.com/about).
We arrived at The Silo Hotel on a quiet week-night evening after work. After a round of hellos to my food-favourites and wine wing-people, I had a chance to look over Arbikie’s range of spirits. I’ve heard of Kirsty’s Gin before, and I’ve had their chilli vodka on my peripheral for a while, but that’s about it. In addition to these two, Arbikie offers a full range of premium spirits, including my new favourite acquaintances, the strawberry vodka and Haar wheat vodka.
Arbikie spoiled us that evening with a curated menu of cocktails, showcasing their fine spirits. First up was a round of Kirsty’s Collins, a delightfully refreshing mix of Kirsty’s gin, lemon and passion fruit. Served in a tall glass with lots of ice, this is the perfect summer sipper, and I was in my happy place.
Next was the Aks Martini, classically made with Aks Gin, vermouth and green olives. A seductively delicious drink, with just the right hit of sweet and spice to complement the salty olives.
We closed the night with a Spiced Bloody Mary, with just a dash of Arbikie’s gorgeously cheeky chilli vodka. Beautifully smooth with a few small licks of flames at the back of the throat, it’s decadently warming and fragrant.
Iain told of how his grandfather bought up the surrounding farms, little by little, through the years, until today where Arbikie has grown into the current single site estate operation. Four generations of Stirlings stretching back as far as 1660 has kept farming in the blood of Stirling brothers, Iain, John and David, who are the proud custodians of Arbikie today.
Records show a distillery on their land that dates back as far as 1794. This discovery inspired and shaped their distilling philosophy. Today, Arbikie pays homage to these humble beginnings from the floors of the renovated old cattle barn. Keeping their methods as pure and authentic as possible, their practice aligns with a time when small-batch, family distilled spirits was a traditional craft to be perfected through decades of practice. Having said that, the Stirling family is filled with boundless creativity, innovation and well, good spirits!
Iain chatted to us about the history and roots of Arbikie. Iain carries the very soil of Arbikie on his own hands and calls home the very fields that grows its crops.
What makes the story of Arbikie so captivating and enviously idyllic, is their “field to bottle” philosophy. It’s not just the main ingredient of their spirits that are being grown in close proximity to the distillery, but every ingredient. Every infusion, every addition, every botanical. Bottles are filled, labelled and sealed on the estate. They grow their own juniper and harvest their honey from their local bees. Even the crystal-clear mountain water is taken from nature’s underground reserves that feed these fertile farms.
A lovely evening of story-telling and armchair travelling to the misty east coast of Scotland. Here, where a family believes in respecting the earth and its spoils. A family who believes in harnessing the natural resources around them to create quality, authentic and whole-hearted Scottish spirits. Thank you, Iain, for taking the time to share Arbikie’s story with us; it’s one that I will read for many years to come! And once again, a big thank you to Covert Distributions for bringing the world’s best spirits to our doorstep!
And one last hurrah – happy belated fifth birthday, team Arbikie! Wishing you many, many more fruitful, successful years. I’ll raise a glass (or two!) of Granny’s Strawberry Fizz at Christmas to cheers your fields and successes.
The Little Hedonist has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, I do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, menu changes, opening times, and contact details.
Disclaimer: I was invited to this event in my personal capacity as The Little Hedonist. There was no expectation for platform coverage in the form of a blog, or social media posts. This is my honest and truthful opinion and review thereof. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are solely those of The Little Hedonist, given in good faith and in no way influenced by the company or its affiliates. All images, unless otherwise stated/credited, are also my own.