A Scottish gin distiller has spoken of his shock over the toxic debate that has sprung up on social media surrounding a photograph of Nicola Sturgeon visiting his distillery.

Jonathan Engels of Crossbill said the visit was entirely unplanned and lasted less than ten minutes after the First Minister popped in to chat to the staff following a press conference in Glasgow’s BAaD – where the Crossbill distillery and gin school is located.

The distiller then took the opportunity to post a pic on the Gin School’s official Facebook page, thinking people might like to see their newest visitor.

Since publishing it on the 18th May, Jonathan, who stated that his gin brand has no political affiliations, said he has been shocked by the vitriol that’s been thrown up in the comments section, leading to him having to moderate comments on an almost hourly basis.

Ms. Sturgeon posed with one of the Crossbill team in the Gin School. Picture: Crossbill

He said: “Since posting the picture to our Facebook page I have been shocked at the tone, language and abuse being posted in the comments. The responses are so extreme.”

The arguments have led to over 350 comments being posted by people on both sides of the Scottish political spectrum, with people posting in support of Nicola Sturgeon and others attacking the brand for posting a picture of her posing with one of their bottles.

Jonathan added: “There are people saying they will never buy Crossbill again and others stating that even though they don’t drink gin, they will be buying it as gifts for gin loving friends from now on.”

The Glasgow-based producer said that when David Mundell visited the distillery a few years back – at a time when he was Scotland’s only Tory – the picture on that occasion only received a few angry comments – both private and public – but nothing like the current controversy over the Sturgeon photograph.

He said: “Compare this current situation to when David Mundell paid us a visit and I posted a similar picture – at the time it only generated a handful of negative comments.”

The drinks maker said he even tried to passively engage some of the negative comments by saying that “everyone was welcome” at the Hatchery, before pointing out that the gin firm has successfully worked with people in both the Scottish Conservative party and the SNP in the past.

He even reposted the picture of David Mundell, however the spite-filled comments have continued to pour in.

Citing remarks referring to Ms. Sturgeon as a “poison dwarf” and others writing that the picture would “kill off” Crossbill’s customer list, the exasperated gin producer said he’s not sure how much more he can do to stem the abuse or arguments that are still ongoing on the page.

He said: “We have had direct support from both Mr Mundell and Ms Sturgeon’s offices in the past, so the abuse from both sided is completely unjustified.”

He added that the whole situation seems even more confusing when considering the fact that the same image on both Instagram and Twitter seems to have garnered only positive responses.

About The Author

Sean Murphy

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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