The Arbikie Estate is home to craftsmen of soil and curators of a fine ensemble of drinks from their distillery, now in its 7th year of producing sustainable, field-to-bottle spirits.

Iain Stirling, one of three visionary brothers behind their venture, joins us on this episode of It Runs In The Family to discuss the story behind their 400 year family farming history, how a drink in New York sowed the seeds for their own foray into spirits, and the incredible father whose name is shared by AK’s Gin – contributing to 2018’s winner of the World’s Best Martini award…

This episode covers:

  • Combining assorted family experiences to create an innovative extension to the Stirlings’ existing farm
  • Working with family as a choice through intrinsic trust
  • Producing award-winning gin, Scotland’s first potato vodka, and the world’s only Scotch Rye Whiskey
  • Carrying on the legacy written by parents as custodians of their land
  • Treating the team as family, and letting them thrive in their area of expertise
  • The value to the Stirling family of maintaining the sustainability of field-to-bottle production

Episode Highlights

“It’s surprising we didn’t think of it earlier, the light bulb did eventually come on. We had the buildings and ingredients. I worked in the drinks industry for Whyte & Mackay, Jim Beam brands, Diageo, and we also had a marketing business that worked with William Grant’s which is a family distilling business. We know a lot of the people there, we know the family, and those relationships continue.” – 5:55 – Iain Stirling


“The journey we did and the learning that we did in other businesses and then having the marketing business, and then realising we had most of the key elements for setting up a distillery – it still surprises me how long it took us to get there. But it’s a big jump to set up a brand new business in a space that I knew, but John and David didn’t.” – 12:45 – Iain Stirling


“It’s a really, really nice feeling to be able to build on what mum and dad did over their career. We are custodians of the land we’ve got now, and we feel that because it’s who we are. But also distillery is another legacy business to pass on to next generations.” – 16:40 – Iain Stirling


“I choose to be in business with my brothers. I don’t have to be as I’ve worked with corporate businesses. It’s just such a rewarding thing to work with family, and you’ve got instinctive trust. I think trust is the element that’s most important.” – 29:40 – Iain Stirling


“If we employ distillers we let them distill, and we’re not interfering with that. I was joking with a friend about doing this podcast and thinking you’ll start asking me distilling questions, and I know very little about distilling. We’ve got very good distillers and that’s what they do. I knew enough about it and I knew what I wanted at the end, but ultimately in terms of distilling, there’s years of learning both for Kirsty and for Christian.” – 37:40 – Iain Stirling


“I think for anyone like Jim who worked as our foreman for over 35 years, you have to be doing something right for people to want to work for you for that amount of time. That’s a long time. I think he got his 30 year medal recently, and he probably deserves a medal for working with our family. But they run it as a family business, so they treat the people as family.” – 41:12 – Iain Stirling


“The farm is essential because you know doing that field to bottle the growing distilling maturing all in one space the farming set the farm is essential for that you know there’s there’s a range of next generation who are all fairly young just now all this being about 21 but they will come the opportunities are there” –  – Iain Stirling


“The farm is essential because for doing field-to-bottle, growing, distilling and maturing all in one space the farm is essential for that. There’s a range of next generation who are all fairly young just now, the oldest being about 21, but they will come. The opportunities are there.” – 54:15 – Iain Stirling

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