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Meet the Distiller

Steve Duthie, Esker Spirits.

Published: 5th July 2018

Having established Aberdeenshire’s first gin distillery in 2015, we were more than familiar with Esker Spirits but we wanted to know more, and so we caught up with Steve Duthie, one half of Esker Spirits, co-founder and distiller who runs the business with partner Lynne Duthie, in our Meet the Distiller feature series.

How did Esker come about?

From the outset, we’ve been gin lovers and had a strong interest in gin and the distillation process. How different botanicals change the flavour and character of gins became a real fascination – and this led us to experimenting with our own gin.

Starting with our 1 litre still (which we still use today) and following two years of experimentation, in October 2015, Esker Spirits was born.

Once we decided to produce our signature Esker Gin commercially, we had a beautiful copper still (called Drum) made to fit the shed in our garden.

Esker is the first and only Scottish gin to be distilled with silver birch sap, which we tap from the trees of the Kincardine Castle Estate on Royal Deeside.  Thanks to this, we built a great relationship with the Estate and when the time came to expand a few months later we were offered a site on the estate for our distillery.  Esker is now based there, and it further adds to the provenance of our spirits.

What important lessons have you learned on your Gin journey?

Understanding and controlling each part of the distillation process is key for us.  Being able to demonstrate the provenance of our spirits is becoming more important in a busy market – and having control of the process helps us do that. We distill and bottle in our own SALSA approved distillery and this allows us to strictly control the production of the product to high quality and taste standards.

What makes Esker different?

Its full flavour. Esker is a classic gin that delivers a real taste experience to the consumer.

This is helped by the silver birch sap we have as our key botanical. Esker is the only Scottish gin to use it and we source this ourselves from the trees of the Kincardine Estate. 

What’s your biggest highlight of the Esker adventure so far?

Seeing the finished product for the first time was great. It is still is a huge buzz to find Esker in places we weren’t necessarily expecting to see it.  This has definitely been helped by our award successes, which give stockists the quality reassurance they are looking for.

Where would you like to see Esker in 5 years time?

We would like to see Esker with a global reach, competing with the best in other territories.  Building on our recent exporting success to China, we are currently in discussions with international distributors, which is exciting for us.  We are also looking forward to bringing to market the other products we have planned for our range. 

What’s your personal ‘perfect serve’?

Our ‘perfect serve’ would be Esker Gin poured over ice, paired with a good quality tonic and garnished with a twist of orange. Although this is a recommended serve, as Esker is a versatile spirit and we encourage people to experiment with mixers and garnish to find their own perfect serve.

Who’s supported you on your Gin journey?

First and foremost, our family and friends.  We are also hugely grateful to our local stockists and customers who really embraced Esker when it arrived. A huge thank you to them.

What’s the best part of the Gin making process?

The distillation. The interest in distilling was the catalyst behind Esker and we still experiment on our small stills regularly.  I think Lynne would say that it’s the sampling – she seems to take that role quite seriously!

What’s the worst part of the Gin making process?

Without a doubt, it’s cleaning the stills. However, we are committed to the environment and the waste product is given to the estate farmers to use on the fields.  

What’s next for Esker?

More exporting, expansion, growth and new products.

You can learn more about Esker Spirits here.

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