Tour and Taste.
The Dunnet Bay Distillery Tour – a visitor experience at the UK mainland’s most northerly distillery – has been awarded the accolade of a making this one of the top activities in the world. These awards are only for attractions or venues that consistently earn great reviews from travellers and are ranked within the top 10% worldwide.
Dunnet Bay Distillers is a sustainable, family-owned business that makes award-winning Holy Grass Vodka and Rock Rose Gin, which has just been awarded the status of being a CoolBrands product for the second successive year.
Joanne Howdle, who runs the tours, explains: “We are thrilled to have been selected for a Travellers’ Choice Award, which reflects the quality of our distillery tours. Tour participants are given a Rock Rose Gin & Tonic on arrival and, after visiting the Still House, they experience a tutored tasting where they try one of the seasonal gins, Rock Rose Pink Grapefruit Old Tom Gin, and one of our Holy Grass Vodka products”.
Holy Grass, grown at the distillery, lends its name to the award-winning vodka which the company describes as ‘Scottish Magic’. Joanne Howdle explains that Holy Grass gets its name because “In the Middle Ages, churches had compacted earth floors which became very muddy when it rained. The grass which used to grow abundantly in the UK, was placed on the church floors to soak up the mud. Whilst this was done for practical reasons it had an unexpected consequence as underfoot the grass emitted a glorious vanilla incense fragrance giving rise to the common name Holy Grass.”
“It was over-picked and by 1750, Holy Grass was believed to be completely extinct in the UK. In the 1800s, (Northern) Holy Grass (Hierochloe borealis) was rediscovered growing on the banks of the Thurso River by Robert Dick (1811-1866), an amateur natural historian and baker. Holy Grass is still one of the rarest plants in the UK, so it is a protected species and cannot be picked in the wild, which is why we cultivate this botanical in our distillery herb garden. It imparts a sweet, creamy note to the vodka, and ours is the only distillery in the UK to be making vodka from a grass,” says Joanne Howdle.
This is the ‘Year of Holy Grass’ and, to celebrate, Dunnet Bay Distillery is arranging an exhibition in its Visitor Centre entitled ‘Holy Grass Hero: The Life of Robert Dick’, featuring work by local artists along with an associated events programme planned for winter 2022/2023.
To book a tour visit . Tours cost £15 per person and take place in Dunnet, Caithness, lasting around 1.5 hours. Families participating on a guided distillery tour with children are given a free Family Activity Pack. However, those not of drinking age are not permitted to sit at the Tasting Table. The distillery is on the North Coast 500 route.