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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 06/03/2020

Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters celebrates every aspect of our beautiful shores and waterways with a programme of activity designed to inspire both visitors and locals to explore and experience everything that make them special.

Each month we’re showcasing the people who live, work and have a passion for our waters and as we are celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March, this month we’ve interviewed three  trail-blazing women who work across Scotland in businesses and organisations that interact with some of our most beautiful natural resources.

We spoke to Georgina Kitching, one of the co-founders and distillers of Lussa Gin, based in the remote Isle of Jura. Together with two friends they’ve built the business on the island they love while championing women in the industry. Find out more about how they forage for unique botanicals by the sea, work together and even get a chilly recommendation for how water can positively influence your wellbeing…!

How did Lussa Gin come about and what is your role in the business? 

Lussa Gin was founded by three (nearish) neighbours who live in the sparsely populated north end of the Isle of Jura. I am one of the three, and my role is generally to oversee production operations, and specifically to carry out the distilling of Lussa Gin. My partners are Claire, whose role is in marketing and sales, and Alicia, who runs the financial department. Back in 2015 all three of us were looking for a change in our working lives and, once the seed of an idea had been planted, we didn't need much persuading to start a business together making gin.

What makes Lussa Gin so special?

The majority of the botanicals that we grow ourselves or gather from the wild go straight into our freezers until we are ready to distil them. Freezing, as opposed to the more usual drying, keeps the lightest flavours locked into the botanicals. It is particularly noticeable with the citrus notes from the lemon thyme and floral notes from the roses. These top notes give a whole extra dimension to Lussa Gin which would be lost if we dried all of our ingredients. 

What is it about the Isle of Jura that makes it the right place for your distillery? 

There are aromatic botanicals growing wild all around, and there is also space to cultivate plants ourselves. The spring water is soft and clear and the air is clean. Best of all, I have two amazing neighbours who have the perfect combination of talents to make our gin business a success.

What's the best part of your job?

Harvesting the botanicals is my favourite part, and it is a team effort that we all enjoy. In spring, there is the excitement of seeing the first shoots of watermint and the young leaves of bog myrtle. Lemon balm and ground elder are not far behind. Then comes the first of several intensely fragrant cuts of lemon thyme in a hot polytunnel.

We watch with anticipation for the first beautiful roses at the end of May which we'll be picking through to the first frosts. In summer we have great fun trying to avoid either an unscheduled swim whilst harvesting sea lettuce from Ardlussa Bay, or an unscheduled tumble while stretching up high on a hillside for Scots pine needles.

The short blooming of elderflower and lime flowers is when we must get out and pick whatever the weather. As the year turns to autumn, gathering the last of the honeysuckle, digging orris root, and threshing of coriander seeds mark a slowing down in the harvest. The year's work is complete when, at start of winter, we pick the wild (and very prickly) rosehips.

What's the most challenging aspect of your job?

Whilst our location is a very special place to live and work, its remoteness brings challenges. Being two ferries from the mainland, and an hour's drive up a single-track (albeit picturesque) road, getting supplies in and getting gin out can be difficult and expensive at the best of times. Add in some wild weather (which can disrupt ferries), electricity supplies and the internet, we have had to build resilience into both our business and our everyday lives. 

On International Women's Day what piece of advice would you like to say to aspiring female entrepreneurs?

There are no limits to what you can do. Just start, keep going and you will be amazed at where you end up. Being in a team makes is much easier.

Why do you think Scotland has become so successful in producing high-quality food and drink?

We have exceptional natural resources which give us the finest ingredients. In the drinks industry we have a long history of making the best spirits, and it is a proud tradition that we are all honoured to carry on.

What's your favourite fact or stat about Jura?

The Corryvreckan Whirlpool is the third largest in the world and is found off the northern tip of Jura.

Do you have a favourite place or memory connected to Scotland's coasts or waters?

This Christmas morning I went for a morning swim in Lussa Bay where I live in Jura. The sun was shining and the water was beautiful. It was exhilarating and great fun!

 

Find out more about Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters and how you can get involved to make the most of the year for your business.

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