Plans for new Orkney craft distillery revealed

Plans for an Orkney craft distillery – the first in the islands – have been revealed by the local couple behind the project.

Published 6th Apr 2016
Updated 31 st Oct 2023

Stephen and Aly Kemp from Kirkwall - trading under the name of Orkney Distilling Limited - are seeking planning permission to create the artisan distillery, visitor centre and shop on the town’s Ayre Road.

If approved, the distillery will produce the Kemps’ own variety of gin – Kirkjuvagr – which has been in development over the past few months.

The Kemps – both gin aficionados – have been heavily involved in the developmental process, working alongside experts at a consulting craft distillery to bring the new Orkney gin to the marketplace.

Stephen and Aly Kemp. Picture: contributed

Locally grown botanicals will be key to Kirkjuvagr’s distinctiveness, with the Agronomy Institute at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Kirkwall helping the Kemps identify a uniquely Orcadian blend of ingredients.

Production of Kirkjuvagr Gin will initially be carried out on mainland Scotland using the same artisan process Orkney Distilling will employ when production moves to Orkney, upon completion of the Kirkwall distillery.

Stephen Kemp is general manager of family firm, Orkney Builders (Contractors) Ltd, which owns the Ayre Road site being proposed for the new distillery.

“This is an exciting new venture for Aly and myself,” he said. “As gin lovers, we’ve long wondered what it would be like to create a distinctly Orcadian variety, one that could proudly represent the islands in what is a highly competitive, but rapidly expanding and exciting, marketplace.

“In developing Kirkjuvagr, we were very keen to make some kind of connection with Orkney’s Norse heritage, in addition to the brand’s Viking name, and we like to think we’ve come up with something a bit special in terms of the ingredients.

We’re keeping the specifics about Kirkjuvagr close to our chest at the moment, but all will be revealed in time! We’re certainly delighted with our new gin and we’re hoping it’ll go down well in Orkney, and further afield.”

Following approval, work on the distillery will start in the autumn of this year, with an official opening likely in April 2017.

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“From the outset with our plans for the distillery, we were keen to create a new focal point for Kirkwall and a new attraction for Orkney,” added Stephen. “That’s why we’ve incorporated visitor and exhibition space in our plans, in addition to creating a welcoming and atmospheric environment for anyone who wants to come in and savour our gin at their leisure.

“People will be able to come in, learn about the distillation process, see it in action and sample the product. We’re also keen to use the exhibition and visitor space to tell visitors more about Orkney and showcase some of the many wonderful products from our islands.”

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