Distillery celebrates one year of business

Company founders Neil and Katie Sime
Company founders Neil and Katie Sime

A local family-run, micro distillery that produces premium, handcrafted spirits, inspired by the local landscape and Aberdeenshire’s prehistoric past, is celebrating one year in business.

Blackford Craft Distillery is marking the anniversary with the launch of a new product, more than 3,000 bottles sold and a new export opportunity.

Blackford Craft Distillery

Blackford Craft Distillery

Founded by Neil and Katie Sime in 2017, the Blackford portfolio includes three products; Vesperis Pictish Gin; award winning Vesperis Pictish Vodka; and the new addition, Vesperis Heather Honey Vodka, which uses Aberdeenshire heather honey from Udny Provender in Methlick.

Based on a traditional Polish honey vodka, known as Krupnik, it is believed to be the first Scottish honey vodka, and will be officially launched at Taste of Grampian tomorrow (Saturday, June 2).

Blackford Craft’s first product, Vesperis Pictish Vodka, won a gold medal at The Spirits Business Global Vodka Masters just four months after launch. In 12 months, the distillery has sold more than 3,000 bottles and its Vesperis Pictish Gin will soon be exported to Europe following interest from a Danish retailer.

Neil Sime, a former oil and gas engineer and co-founder of Blackford Craft Distillery, said: “Our first year as Blackford Distillery has been a whirlwind. We launched at Taste of Grampian in 2017 so to return on our first birthday, meet customers old and new, and be able to release our new expression, Vesperis Heather Honey Vodka, feels like we are coming home.

“We chose heather honey as one of our primary botanicals as we are inspired by Blackford’s local landscape and ancestral heritage. Honey has history here which predates even the Scots arrival, dating back to Pictish times. That ancient inspiration used in a modern context was really important for us when looking for unique botanicals. It also tastes incredible, much richer and more floral than some other types of honey, you can literally taste the heather in it.

“To keep that rich, floral flavour, we began experimenting with the idea of creating a Scottish heather honey vodka, based on Polish Krupnik. We are incredibly proud of the result; the separate flavours of the honey are evident across the palate, subtle without overpowering, and the hint of the heather blossom gives a wonderful finish. It is a Scottish twist on a Polish classic.”

In March 2018, Blackford Craft Distillery was selected to participate in Opportunity North East and Aberdeenshire Council’s food and drink Business Growth Programme (BGP),designed specifically to accelerate growth within North East Scotland’s burgeoning food and drink sector.

Neil added: “Our experience in the business growth programme has provided us with the tools to approach larger retailers, analyse gaps in the market and generate ideas for future market trends. As a result, later this year, we plan to launch a fruit infused gin and take on our third full-time member of staff, with the aim of being stocked in a high-end specialist retailer in every major UK city this time next year. Blackford Craft Distillery is, at its heart, a family business with its roots in North East Scotland, but we have great ambition for expansion.”

Blackford Craft Distillery will be exhibiting at Taste of Grampian and will be found at stand 710 to launch its latest product, Vesperis Heather Honey Vodka. The full product range will be available for tasting and purchase on the day and online and through its independent stockists thereafter.

Once part of the Blackford Estate, with links to Fyvie Castle, Maryfield of Blackford is a six-acre property consisting of woodland, fields, the former farm house and steadings. Maryfield Steading was separated from the farm land in 1989 and neglected until it was taken over by the distillery and sympathetically refurbished into a still room and fully licensed distillery comprising plant room, excise warehouse, office and tasting room.