Scotland's newest gin, Kirkjuvagr, launches in Orkney

Orkney’s new premium quality gin, Kirkjuvagr, was officially launched in the islands’ capital this weekend.

Published 8th Aug 2016
Updated 31 st Oct 2023

The gin is the first one to be released by Orkney Distilling Limited, after months of painstaking research and recipe trials using a unique blend of Orcadian botanicals.

The producers say demand for their new gin has been exceptionally high, with bars, shops and restaurants throughout Orkney and the Scottish mainland said to be inquiring after the new brand.

Described as being “unmistakably Orcadian” in character, the gin's brand draws on the strong Norse and seafaring themes that are traditional for the area, with the origin of the gin's name coming from the Old Norse for “Church Bay”.

Stephen Kemp, who launched the distillery with partner Aly, said: “We’ve spent a very long time perfecting the recipe for Kirkjuvagr and are exceptionally pleased with the end result.

“We’ve worked closely with the Agronomy Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands in Kirkwall to come up with a blend of local botanicals that we think will set Kirkjuvagr apart from other gins and we’d like to thank the team at the Institute for their input.

"All the feedback we’ve had so far in trial tastings has been incredibly positive, so we’re confident we’ve created a product that sits well amongst other premium spirit brands.”

One of the locally sourced ingredients is Angelica with the plant being used found in only a couple of specific locations in Orkney.

This plant was reportedly taken to the islands centuries ago by sailors from the Faroes and has been grown from seed at the Agronomy Institute’s site overlooking Kirkwall Bay.

Other ingredients include Ramanas Rose, Burnet Rose, Borage and, uniquely, traditional Orcadian bere barley.

Full production of Kirkjuvagr will move to Kirkwall once Orkney Distilling Limited’s new Ayre Road distillery and visitor centre was completed next year.

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Stephen explains how important Angelica is to the recipe: “The Angelica’s Norse connection gave us a nice link to our Viking ancestors and we thought it was essential to use it in our recipe.

“We’ve also enjoyed incorporating it into our branding, the quality of which reflects the premium nature of Kirkjuvagr Gin.

"We’re particularly pleased with the final appearance of the packaging. It’s distinctive and instantly recognisable as an Orcadian product, but it’s one that will sit well in bars, shops and restaurants throughout the country.”

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