Dream to dram: Peter Holroyd on life at Kingsbarns Distillery
Author: Issariya Morgan
Peter Holroyd is Distillery Manager at Kingsbarns in Fife. We speak to him about the birth of the distillery, their sustainability initiatives and working for a close-knit family-run business.
In 2008, Peter Holroyd was just finishing a degree in Brewing and Distilling at Herriot Watt University in Edinburgh. That summer, he took up a temporary job at St Austell Brewery in Cornwall.
“That was where I cut my teeth in a proper production environment, I suppose,” he reflects. Today, he’s speaking to me over Zoom from Kingsbarns Distillery in Fife, where he now holds the post of Distillery Manager.
“Then I was the Head Brewer for a tiny little distillery just outside Glasgow for four years.” He arrived at Kingsbarns in 2014, situated just a little south of St Andrews on Scotland’s east coast.
“It was my first time working in a distillery, so it was a very steep learning curve,” he admits, with a self-deprecating smile, “but it was great to be here and learn all the quirks of this place. Every site is different. Every distillery is different. There was a hell of a lot to learn. But I’ve been here ever since, and I absolutely love it.”
The birth of Kingsbarns
“So Kingsbarns was actually the idea of a local golf caddy,” says Peter, starting at the beginning of the story. “He figured: here we are in St Andrews, the home of golf, and there are no distilleries around. It was his idea, initially, to start the distillery.”
Around the same time, the Wemyss family – a Scottish business family – were looking to establish their own whisky distillery, a project spearheaded by siblings Isabella and William Wemyss. “The family have historical links to Fife, dating back to the 12th century,” explains Peter.
“So, Douglas contacted William Wemyss, who had been an independent bottler since 2005. He already had some experience in the industry and had some good contacts. The Wemyss family came on board in 2012, which provided the backing and the knowledge to make Kingsbarns a successful project.”
Two years later, the newly built distillery opened its doors to the public – which is when Peter joined the company. The team began distilling their first spirit in early 2015.
“It’s lovely, because we’re an independently-owned family-run distillery, run by a Scottish family,” says Peter with pride. “There aren’t too many Scottish families actually owning distilleries now, so it’s quite a nice wee sentimental thing for the Wemyss family.”
Little by little
Across the drinks business, sustainability is becoming an increasingly important concern. The effects of climate change are keenly felt by producers across the industry.
“Distilling is a very energy-hungry business,” Peter concedes, “so we’re trying to be as environmentally conscious as possible.” He explains how Kingsbarns are conserving energy wherever they can, and making every effort to minimise waste and water usage.
“In line with keeping things as local as possible, all our spent grain goes to the local farmer, just 600 metres away, to feed his cattle. And all our pot ale goes towards spreading on his field as fertiliser. We try to keep things within a mile of the distillery, and we’re doing everything we can to be more fuel-efficient and to have as little impact on the environment as possible.”
Such proactive changes are perhaps more possible when working in a company as closely knit as Kingsbarns.
“Because we’re such a small team, everyone gets involved in everything,” Peter says warmly. “You’re involved in every aspect of the business, and everyone helps out. I’m really lucky to work here – it’s a gorgeous wee spot.”
Seven years after the Kingsbarns team started distilling their first spirit, they now have a small selection of whiskies to their name. Their single-malt limited release is named Dream to Dram, which seems to sum up the last few years at Kingsbarns perfectly.
Browse our selection of Kingsbarns whiskies here.