Tony Reeman-Clark: We need an accreditation scheme for Scottish gins

Tony Reeman-Clark, founder of Strathearn Distillery, gives his view on why we need a accreditation scheme for Scottish gins to prove origin.

Published 22nd Jul 2016
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

Strathearn Distillery was granted all of its licences from HMRC in August 2013 and became the first of the new wave of small distilleries that is now sweeping across Scotland.

This trend for hand-crafted distilling has been happening worldwide for some time and it was this growth and interest around the world, especially in America, that provided the first spark to see if this was also possible in the UK, where HMRC draconian laws had prevented it from happening.

A big part of my life has always been pursuing challenges and the idea of establishing a small traditional Scotch whisky distillery in Scotland seemed to tick all the boxes and also satisfied my new found taste and love for all things Scotch Whisky related.

Funding was a challenge and the decision was made to develop a range of gins to help with the cash flow. Little did I know the gin craze was just starting to kick-off in a big way.

We installed two small copper pot stills at Strathearn and started to produce malt spirit, four different gins and even a Scottish Cider Brandy*.

The net effect has been to become the home of hand-crafted spirits in Scotland and in December of this year, Strathearn becomes the first to release a single cask, single malt Scotch from a small traditional farm distillery. Probably the first in 150 years.

Meanwhile, as the first of what can be considered a new industry for Scotland, Strathearn Distillery founded the Scottish Craft Distillers Association (SCDA) with the help of Heriot-Watt University, Interface Food and Drink and SAOS.

The initial meeting in September of 2013, led to the formal constitution being developed and signed in March 2014 with over 30 founding members; many of whom are now producing spirit.

SCDA has many roles to play and as Chairman of the Association, I have been driving the group to become a single voice for both producer members and prospective producers.

From lobbying for duty reductions to align with the brewers sliding scale of excise; representing small distillers to HMRC and similar activities, SCDA has grown in importance and significance to the extent of signing a MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

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One key responsibility of SCDA is to introduce an accreditation scheme for products made by its members. Scotland is synonymous with quality.

Scottish spirit, in the form of Scotch, is known around the world for its provenance and high quality. Because of this, several prominent gin products are appearing on the market, portrayed as Scottish, when they are distilled elsewhere.

SWA is magnificent in its defence of Scotch and SCDA is taking on this mantle for other spirits produced in Scotland.

From August, distillers in Scotland, distilling hand-crafted spirits according to the ethos and constitution of SCDA, will be entitled to display the SCDA accreditation stamp; each stamp individually numbered and traceable. Scottish quality will be protected and consumers can safely drink their G & T knowing that the G has been hand-crafted in Scotland.

Is it going to be controversial? I hope so, as it will weed out the imposters.

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• Tony Reeman-Clark is the owner of Strathearn Distillery and the founder of the Scottish Craft Distillers Association

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The distillery brought together both sides of Tony's life. A love of flavours and engineering, planning and people. It took two years to get the recipes correct but now with the help of his young team, Strathearn has become the home of craft spirits in Scotland. Tony also founded the Scottish Craft Distillers Association (SCDA) with the help of Heriot-Watt University, Interface Food and Drink and SAOS.
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