Case Study

Dunnet Bay Distillers


Heriot-Watt University
The University of the Highlands and Islands
University of Aberdeen
University of Strathclyde


Food & Drink, Agritech and Aquaculture


Highlands & Islands


Dunnet Bay Distillers is a microdistillery located in Dunnet Bay on the coastline of the North Sea.  They produce award-winning Rock Rose Gin and Holy Grass Vodka.

The aim of this distillery is to develop a range of distilled products with a focus on locally sourced raw materials.

These include locally grown Rhodiola rosea, rowan berries, and seaweed harvested from the nearby coastline.


In 2013, Martin Murray, company director and, at the time, an MSc student in the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling programme at Heriot-Watt University, contacted Dr Annie Hill at the University looking to generate recipe and process methodology for both a seaweed vodka and seaweed gin.


After contacting Interface, the distillery was awarded a Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher, administered by Interface, to cover the costs of their collaboration with Heriot-Watt University. 

Research work within this project led to the creation of a wide range of novel distilled spirits. The seaweed sample from the shore by the distillery was found to contain three types of seaweed rather than a single type leading to an increase in the number of distillations performed. Products included vodka distilled using a mixed range of seaweed types and using two different methods of distillation, three vodkas distilled with individual types of seaweed, and nine gins distilled with a variation in the botanicals used. Preference testing was carried out for the gins created including taste panel testing of seaweed gin with a range of commonly used mixers to determine the commercial potential of the products.

Follow-on Activity

Martin and his wife Claire have always been keen to make their distillery as green and carbon neutral as possible. With their production growing steadily, the waste generated also increased in tandem.  After such a successful project with Heriot-Watt University, the couple sought the assistance of Interface to source additional academic expertise to determine new ways of efficiently reducing and dealing with their waste.

Interface matched them with the University of Aberdeen who have since undertaken an initial review of Dunnet Bay Distillers’ berry waste and plan to take this project further to repurpose the waste for other uses.

Another area that generates considerable waste is the plastic packaging which covers the distiller’s iconic ceramic bottles during their long journey to Dunnet.  Martin worked with the University of Strathclyde and a student group to determine alternative uses for this packaging so that it does not end up in landfill.  The project is now complete and Martin is looking at implementing the suggested solution on site.

Another challenge Dunnet Bay Distillers faced as production increased was the ability to know if the water tank for distilling was near empty. Martin’s very basic method of hitting it with his hand to determine how full it was needed an upgrade but he simply did not have the time to research and implement any new technology.  Through working with Shaie MacDonald at Interface, a student from UHI North Highland College was recruited to develop a customised gauge for them.  The project has now been completed and the solution implemented and incorporated into a bigger piece of work by a consultant.

On seeking academic help within your business, never think a project is too small. The expertise out there is vast and until you work with an intermediary such as Interface, it is very difficult and time consuming to find a potential match. Interface can help you define your project clearly and take a lot of the time burden away so that you can get the right expert help when you need it, said Martin Murray, Director, Dunnet Bay Distillers.

Please note that Interface administers the Innovation Voucher Scheme on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council. All funding applications are reviewed on a case by case basis by the Scottish Funding Council, guidelines can be found here.