Below is an excerpt from the August 2015 edition of GINNED! Magazine about Rock Rose Gin and the Dunnet Bay Distillery. Every month, Craft Gin Club Members receive a bottle of amazing small-batch gins and gin complements accompanied by GINNED! Magazine which is full of information about the gin, the distillery and loads of fascinating features.
Before she became Scotland’s premier Countess of Gin, Claire Murray of the Dunnet Bay Distillery used her Honours degree in Hospitality and Management to help guests at Caithness’ Ackergill Tower - a converted castle that is now a five-star hotel and events venue - feel like the lords of the land that once inhabited the castle. Apart from a great place to watch the Northern Lights and its claim to Europe’s largest bedroomed treehouse, Ackergill Tower, like many Scottish castles, is home to a ghost.
Not long after the castle’s construction in the late 14th or early 15th century, a beautiful woman of the Clan Gunn was abducted by the Castle’s owner from the Clan Keith. Instead of succumbing to her captor, she chose suicide and threw herself from Ackergill’s highest tower. Today it is rumoured that she wanders around the castle halls in a green dress.
“The Jewel of the Highlands”, as its current owners call Ackergill Tower, was once the jewel in the eye of the man that held the title given to one of Claire’s Rock Rose Gin cocktails, Earl of Caithness.
The title of Earl of Caithness has been held by Clan Sinclair since 1455 which held Ackergill Tower on three separate occasions. If the Sinclairs met the Gunn ghost during their tenure is not clear, but the family gave rise to another castle ghost that may have spooked UK nobility even higher up the pecking order, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
Ground on The Castle of Mey, which the Queen Mother purchased in 1952, was first broke in 1556 by the 4th Earl of Caithness. It is rumoured that the 5th Earl of Caithness locked his daughter in one of the castle’s towers to prevent her from seeing a local man with whom she had fallen in love, a tower from which she fell to her death. Whether it was suicide or sinister is unknown, but today the echoes of her death reverberate in the tower where she is occasionally spotted as the Green Lady.
But a castle ghost even closer to Claire is one associated with her surname, Calder. Clan Calder traces its roots back to Inverness in the 14th century, a town 5 miles from which it built the clan seat, Cawdor Castle, in the 1450s. A mere 60 years later, the heiress to the Calder name, Muriel, who had been kidnapped by the rival Clan Campbell, was married to John Campbell at 12-years old. Clan Campbell assumed ownership of Cawdor Castle of which it remains proprietor today. Surprisingly, Muriel and John’s marriage worked and it is said that they wander the halls of the castle together. Perhaps many years down the line when Rock Rose Gin has been handed to the next generation, Claire and her husband Martin will haunt the Highland Gin Castle they have built, the Dunnet Bay Distillery
Earl of Caithness Cocktail
150ml of cold Earl Grey tea, sweetened with a half a teaspoon of honey, when hot
35ml of Rock Rose CGC Distiller’s Edition
15ml fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 lavender sprigs
Make Earl Grey tea and sweeten with the honey. Allow to cool and store in fridge until needed. Add all of the above ingredients into a cocktail shaker, with 2 sprigs lavender and ice. Shake several times. Then strain the cocktail into a tea cup. Garnish with lavender sprigs.