The owners of Pixel Sprits and the Loch Leven Hotel in North Ballachulish released the first bottling of their unique gin earlier in the month.
A gin that was named after the Glencoe Massacre of 1692 has been withdrawn from sale after a local historian, whose ancestors died in the Massacre, contacted the distillery about their naming of the gin.
Traditionally gins with an ABV of more than 57% are given the title of “Navy Strength”, but as the gin by the Loch Leven-based distillery carried a 58% ABV and the creators wanted to pay homage to the local area’s history, it was labelled Massacre Strength.
Owners of Pixel Spirits, Noru and Craig Innes, also felt that the loch’s part-saline tidal waters didn’t have enough maritime history for the gin to be called a Navy Strength spirit.
Commenting on the origin of the gin’s name, Craig said: “The local population have been largely positive and supportive of our craft distillery since we opened a few years ago; our product names are inspired by our local area and intended to celebrate this landmark location and its history.
“Our first gin release from 2017, Devil’s Staircase, takes its name from a steep ascent that forms part of the West Highland Way between Glencoe and the local town of Kinlochleven. The gin itself features a warming blend of spices perfect for the cooler winter months.
“In 2019 we launched Drookit Piper which is symbolic of Scottish summer time as we do get more than our fair share of inclement weather here on the West Coast even during the summer months. This gin is a citrus forward, lighter more summery style.
“In choosing a name for our most recent release, Massacre Strength, we highlighted the events of that evening but did not pass judgment. It is perhaps one of the best-known historical events associated with our area and an event of such importance that it still features in the school syllabus.
“The Glencoe Massacre was a violent act, as the Navy was a fierce environment when ‘naval strength’ meant the spirit was strong enough to keep gunpowder viable.”
Craig continued: “It was not our intention to celebrate the massacre with this brand, but to mark that cruel event which still haunts this land we live in and its descendants.
“At Pixel Spirits we welcome feedback and suggestions on our range of product names from customers and neighbours. We have a reasonably robust branding protocol and will review brands on receiving negative feedback and poor performance.”
Following the launch of the gin on World Gin Day (June 10), local historian Rosalin MacDonald, who has family links to the massacre itself and has studied the historical event extensively objected to the gin’s name.
She said: “I objected to the name of the gin and I think that dozens of clans people would have objected too.
“For the past 80 years this terrible event has been commemorated on 13th February in the village and clans people worldwide have attended this event over the years. It wasn’t a battle that took place, it was a massacre.
“Often when people have come to Glencoe they’ve often heard of sinister things happening here, but it’s not the only reason they come to Glencoe. They come for the moutains and the scenery, but they always know that something untoward happened.
“I also have familial ties to the massacre as one of my ancestors, Duncan Rankin, was the first man to be shot as he crossed the River Coe to warn the MacDonalds that something was afoot.
“It was very good of Craig and Noru to pull the gin from production. Craig has invited me to meet with him and discuss the local history and I will take him up on it.
Craig said: “I spoke with Rosalin and apologised for our branding of this product which could have been perceived as offensive, though was never our intention.
“As a result, I have taken the decision to rebrand the product and have withdrawn it from our sales channels with immediate effect.
“I have invited Rosalin with her wealth of knowledge on the local area, to join me for a tea, coffee or perhaps a gin and tonic at a later point so that we can discuss some of the amazing historical talking points in the area that might be more sympathetic to our brand and that of our locality and look forward to this opportunity with relish.”
Set up by entrepreneurial couple Craig and Noru in 2017, Pixel Spirits Distillery came from their ambition to create their own gin for their bar at the Loch Leven Hotel, a former 17th Century coaching inn.
Since opening, they have grown to produce gin for themselves and some other amazing brands across Scotland, with their website offering the chance for bespoke gins to be created for businesses across the country. Their distillery operation now also allows the couple to create their own gins and rums that are all fermented, distilled, bottled and labelled on site.
They also run their own gin school within the distillery that has proven popular over recent years with students being able to learn about recipe development before distilling their own unique bottle of gin.