New craft distillery will bring taste of the Caribbean to Caithness

A report by Scott Maclennan for The John O’Groat Journal and Caithness Courier.

A new craft distillery will launch this month at Forss after securing more than £250,000 of investment.

The North Point Distillery is the brainchild of north coast natives Struan Mackie, who is also a Highland councillor, and close friend Alex MacDonald.

The pair aim to bring a taste of the Caribbean to what is the most northerly rum distillery on the UK mainland, while showcasing the history and heritage of the far north.

They will produce small-batch rum – with the first bottles available in time for Christmas – that is inspired by the legendary pilots of the Pentland Firth.

The Pentland Pilots were master seafarers who helped guide merchant shipping through the treacherous waters that lay between the mainland and Orkney.

Another naval connection is that the distillery is based at the former US Navy listening station at Forss, which overlooks the bay that was once home to many pilot families.

Managing director Mr Mackie said: “For over two years we have been working to establish North Point Distillery and I am delighted that we are now in a position to announce our plans to the public, starting with North Point Pilot Rum, our signature spirit that combines the very best of Caribbean and Scottish distilling techniques in one unique product.

“Before the erection of lighthouses or reliable nautical maps, pilots from across the north coast would aid passing ships with their expert knowledge of the Firth.

“It is well documented that some even ended up in exotic and far-flung locations after helping their vessels to safety, and we thought this was a brilliant story that we wished to build our brand and rum around.”

Following the lead shown by the Glen Wyvis Distillery in Dingwall, which is said to be 100 per cent run on renewables, North Point aims to become one of the most sustainable alcohol producers in Scotland.

Commercial director Mr MacDonald said: “Sustainability has always been a focus for the business and we have embedded sustainable practices into everything we do, from powering the site with renewable energy to using only sustainable ingredients and 100 per cent recycled glass in every one of our products.”

So far both men have been delighted by the local response and support, particularly from the traders and hospitality businesses, with the web shop now open for Christmas pre-orders.

Mr Mackie said: “Caithness is already known as one of the leading regions in the UK for craft spirit production and we feel we will be offering our own unique contribution with an authentic rum distillery in my home county.”

The company raised its first round of financing during the current Covid-19 pandemic and was very pleased to have received investment not just from the UK but the US and Canada.

“I am delighted that our distillery has attracted over £250,000 of foreign direct investment into the far north,” Mr Mackie said. “We are ambitious about creating long-term, highly skilled local jobs and bringing further private investment into the community as we expand.

“Our experienced team will launch North Point Pilot Rum in time for Christmas and look to use our contacts from major markets like Canada and the US to establish the brand and help make inroads on our ambition to become a major exporter for the region.

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