5 Questions with Arbikie’s Master Distiller, Kirsty Black
The UK Vodka & Gin is rapidly becoming much more sophisticated with discerning consumers becoming more focused on the story behind spirit products, particularly with vodka and gin. This includes the growing process of ingredients used in their premium spirits of choice, as well as distillation and location. At Arbikie we grow what we distil so the base material we use is very important and the associated taste appreciated by our consumers. Whether potatoes for our Tattie Bogle Vodka and Kirsty’s Gin, or wheat for our Haar and AK’s Gin, fresh chillies for our Chilli Vodka, or fresh, seasonal strawberries for our Strawberry Vodka – our consumers regularly feedback that they can taste the difference.
1) Why is your brand so special? Give us your best cocktail party pitch.
Easy, because we are field to bottle. It may not sound like much but everything we do is dictated by the farm and the seasons. What crops we are able to grow, the growing season weather, when we harvest, and how long the crops can be stored for all impact how and when we process the cereals and potatoes in the distillery. After months of dedication from the farm team ensuring they get the best out of the plants we make sure we apply the same level of husbandry to get the most out of the harvest – distilling each to show off its unique character and flavours.
2) How did you get to where you are now?
I’d say by having an inquisitive mind and a whole lot of luck! Since a little kid I have always been taking things apart to see how they work, munching on wild plants, or mixing up ‘potions’. Although the route was convoluted, all of this led me to study brewing and distilling through the ICBD at Heriot-Watt University. It was here I crossed paths with the Stirling family and ultimately starting up Arbikie with them.
3) If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing with your life?
Prior to making alcohol I was an engineer in the Medical Device industry so I may well still be there! My job was developing processes and fixing issues – I enjoy problem solving and developing things so I really enjoyed it; if I hadn’t enjoyed my time at Heriot-Watt I could easily have gone back into that industry.
4) What would you order as your desert island drink?
Assuming that every good island is well stocked with Campari and vermouth my drink of choice would be a negroni or a boulevardier – depending on whether I was washed ashore with a bottle of gin or a bottle of whisky!
5) What is your one guilty pleasure, or are there more than one?
I have no idea – probably something to do with food or drink – I love eating and drinking! Mmmm, thinking about it probably something involving bread and dairy – slabs of bread smothered in butter, grilled cheese, fondue, raclette….