A day in the life of...

Claire Murray, Dunnet Bay Distillers.

Published: 15th November 2021

There’s no such thing as an average day in the world of Scotland’s gin makers and business owners. Charging the still for the next distillation, keeping on top of logistics and dealing with suppliers, coordinating and attending gin events and trade shows… looking after the kids, feeding the hens and foraging for botanicals. We spend the day with Scotland’s growing number of Scottish Gin makers and business owners to find out what really goes on in a day in the life. One thing is for sure, there’s never a dull day in the world of Scottish Gin.

In this feature, we caught up with Claire Murray, co-founder and maker of Dunnet Bay Distillers, the makers of the award-winning Rock Rose Gin and other Scottish spirits. The distillery, which is the UK’s most northerly mainland distillery, and won Scottish Gin Distillery of the year at the 2019 Scottish Gin Awards, has continued to grow since launching the Rock Rose Gin expressions in 2014. New Scottish Gin expressions, listings in some of the world’s best bars, export deals to over twenty countries and more, along with the development of the distillery including a tasting room and shop, all means there’s never a quiet moment in the business. Along with her husband and co-founder Martin Murray, Claire has continued to push the brand and business forward whilst juggling parenthood and lockdown among other things, under the watchful eye of Mr Mackintosh; the business mascot and resident distillery dog.

It’s hard to define an average day in our crazy and chaotic lives but here goes….

6.30am – Our day generally begins with an early start. Martin heads out for a run along the golden sandy beach beside our house or heads to the gym for a quick workout. 

7.00am – Next begins the ‘fun’ task of waking everyone else up in the house! First up are our lovely ladies – the hens! After feeding them and giving them a strict warning they need to lay eggs inside the hen house and not outside, it’s a check on the three chicks and their hen mum.

7.15am – Besides our hens, we’ve also got Mr Mackintosh, our Miniature Schnauzer and distillery apprentice, and our new kitten, Frank, to look after. Frank has been awake for ages already and is lying in wait ready to cause chaos, nip toes and chase Mr Mackintosh. Our son, the eldest, is normally up and about first but our two girls require a more tactical approach first thing in the morning.

8.00am – Martin and our eldest child leave at around 8 for him to catch the high school bus and for Martin to head to the distillery.  An hour’s quiet before our chatty team arrive is a chance for a head start on his emails.  We currently export to over 20 countries so there is often lots of emails popping in overnight.  Refill pouches also require to be filled this morning in preparation for the end of the month when we pack all our Refill Reward Club boxes.

8.30am – Our other children head off to catch the bus, which allows me enough time to blitz the housework and return order to the morning’s chaos – breakfast dishes are put away, milk back in the fridge. Our youngest recently started primary school, which means I’ve got most of the day to work on the business.

I handle the marketing side of the business including social media, email newsletters, packaging development, advertising and how the brand looks. Martin is operational and in charge of sales and oversees all production elements including distillation and bottling along with new product development.

9.00am – The team arrives at the distillery and Martin has a quick blether and catch up on the plans for the day before everyone gets cracking on. Every day there is a new challenge or order to get ready with no two days the same.

I am currently working from home, following Covid-safe guidelines, which also means I get to enjoy the peace and quiet away from Martin for a few hours. That said, I’m still in constant contact with Martin and the distillery team throughout the day via my laptop and phone. 

The first hour is spent checking my emails and responding to some new opportunities. I then go through our social media channels and respond to new comments and messages.

9.30am – The only way to operate in our chaotic lives is with military organisation, so referring to ‘The List’ is imperative.  A quick check reveals that today I need to look at our Refill Rewards Club and create some imagery. 

As the sun is shining, it is the ideal day to walk down to the shoreline and take a few photos down there. One of our Refill Rewards Club partners this month packages their shortbread in beautiful little boats so these are crying out for a photo by the sea. Mr Mackintosh happily accompanies me on our morning adventure as we head to the nearby beach to shoot some new photos.

11.00am – After Martin has made tea for the team’s tea break and enjoyed it out in the sun, he turns his attention to our next big project – Castletown Mill. Martin happily goes off on tangents looking at how we can have community events and bands playing, before remembering it needs a roof first! We have been working with two fabulous consultants on this project. We’re so excited with the progress and can’t wait to let everyone see what we’ve created. We also get an update on other parts of the project including the mains electric for the new distillery, which will be powered by green electricity.

Our business is founded on an ethos of sustainability and, living and working where we do on the pristine and beautiful Scottish coastline, it’s easy to be enthused about the need to protect our environment, locally and globally. It’s why we’re so proud of our solar energy, our beach clean ups (with the team), our sustainable packaging solutions and so on. We have weekly meetings with our Environmental Manager to catch up on ideas and plan what our next step is.

12.00 noon – Images of shortbread and gin taken, it’s time for me to write a quick blog and schedule some posts to go out on social media whilst at the same time entertaining Frank, the kitten with very sharp claws. Thankfully he soon gets bored and turns his attentions to Valerie, the robot vacuum cleaner (not as good as me), and is more than happy to set Valerie off and chase her around the house trying to catch her rotating brushes.

12.30pm – Some time is spent creating a social media plan for the rest of the month. It’s a busy time as we’ve been engaging a lot with others involved in International Scottish Gin Day, run by The Gin Cooperative, and we have had lots of interest from the lovely bloggers who are ambassadors for the day. I’m also preparing some content related to the recent announcement Rock Rose Gin has been voted a cool brand by CoolBrands. As much as I like to be organised with our social media content, more often than not our posts are spontaneous when I suddenly remember something or have a ‘brainwave’.

1.30pm – Martin nips home from the distillery for lunch. We’re able to sit outside in the garden and enjoy a tasty salad and some sunshine. Frank joins us as he has started to explore the outdoors and garden more. His current favourite pastime is to chase/pounce on the hens. Said hens, who are meant to be busy laying eggs in their hen house, not out gallivanting. Mr Mackintosh just looks on, glad that he has gotten a reprieve for a wee while.

2.00pm – Martin heads back to the distillery for a Teams catch up with our Brand Ambassador, John. He’s very enthusiastic and always finding great new events and fabulous accounts for us. His positivity is infectious. He’ll then pop through to the Stillhouse to speak with Kevin, one of our distillers, and sample the spirit as it comes off the still. Happy with progress, he carries on to the production area to check in on the team, before returning to messages and emails.

For me, after checking and replying to emails/messages on social, another quick check on ‘The List’ is required. A few more jobs ticked off including planning the fantastic array of goodies to be included as gifts for our wonderful Refill Rewards Club Members. The scheme rewards customers for buying our fully recyclable pouches – which they return by Freepost to us for recycling – and one of my favourite tasks each month is picking the biscuits, crisps or other treats that come in the boxes. 

2.15pm – I plan to pop down to the distillery to see how things are going and check on the distillery gardens, where we grow several of the botanicals we use, but before I go a quick check on the hens reveals a wee stash of eggs hidden in a different spot. If only the eggs were made of chocolate, it would make the egg hunt a bit more fun!

I have a quick catch up with Martin and some of the team. Rewards pouches are filled and this month’s rewards boxes are being packaged up for shipping out in a few days’ time. We’re also packaging up some orders for our international distribution partners along with local orders.

2.45pm – Time to collect the youngest from school: today is swimming lessons so it is a very quick dash to the pool, with the unbuttoning of shirt/cardigan happening en route. Having done a gym induction last week with the intention of going whilst she was at swimming, I felt I should try it out this week. However, with the sun shining, a walk was more the order of the day.

3.30pm – Quick stop on the way home to collect food for our little chicks. With the weather so nice we plan a BBQ for tonight’s dinner, so swing in past the local butcher and pick up food to cook later.

4.00pm – The eldest is back from High School and is walking home along the beach with Martin. It’s a great chance for them both to enjoy a chat about their days. Martin loves his ‘commute’ to work, often comparing it to his 7-hour train journey and helicopter trip when he worked off-shore. That said, he does miss the Marabou Daim chocolate they had on the rigs!

4.10pm – We arrive home to meet the middle child off her bus, quickly organise dinner, check on homework requirements, and zoom her off to her dancing class. Dinner is strictly non-work chat and Martin enjoys his chance to entertain them with his ‘dad’ jokes.  An hour to wait in town usually sees me head to the supermarket or catch up on emails on my laptop in the car.  Previously, evenings were always work as time during the day was limited with having children at home. Now with the youngest at school, I have daytime back to work and I am really appreciating evenings again.

7.00pm – The youngest is in bed after a story and warm milk: stories of choice tonight were the Lorax and Dave. Martin has attempted to be productive in the garden but, after giving up, he has settled to read Stretch by Scott Sonenshein – his new mantra is that we are very stretchy people.

7.30pm – We catch up on the day whilst getting terrorised by Frank, and the elder two get ready for bed. Today, Martin was interviewed by a blogger for a video gin tasting so I was keen to hear how that had gone earlier in the day.

9.00pm – Switch off time. We usually chill out together and watch a good detective series on the TV – often with a glass of Rock Rose Gin in hand and frequently with a cat toy in the other. After this, we do a quick hen count to make sure they are back from their meanders and settle Frank with some treats. Mr Mackintosh has already gone to his bed, he rarely stays up late but will always waken up for his biscuit for supper. 

10.00pm – It’s then a podcast for Martin, reading for me and then lights out.

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