King raises a dram to mark official opening of distillery

The 8 Door Down Distillery in John O’Groats, Caithness, is the most northerly on the UK mainland.

King Charles III raises a dram to mark official opening of distillery in Caithness PA Media

The King has raised a dram to mark the official opening of the UK’s most northerly mainland whisky distillery.

Charles toured the 8 Doors Distillery in John O’Groats, Caithness, on Wednesday to celebrate the industry’s return to the area.

It marks his first official engagement in the region since becoming King, although the area is close to his heart given his work with the Castle of Mey Trust in memory of his grandmother.

The Castle of Mey, nearby, belonged to the late Queen Mother.

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The distillery opened its doors to the public in September, becoming the first to produce Scotch whisky in the Caithness village since 1837.

Crowds braved the rain to catch a glimpse of the King as he met distillery owners Kerry and Derek Campbell.

The couple said Charles showed a real interest in learning about their products during his tour, but was most interested in the people that keep the business running.

Mr Campbell said: “It was just a huge honour for me and Kerry. He is a great advocate for Caithness and it was a real privilege to have him here to officially open the distillery.”

His wife added: “What was really nice is that he took the time to chat with everybody that was here today.

“We couldn’t do what we do without a great team around us. The team have been part of our journey. As we built everything from scratch, it’s been a real team effort so it was nice to have everyone here to be a part of it.

“He was definitely interested in the people. I think that is what he took away most was what their story was and how they ended up working here.

“We really appreciate that he took the time out of his busy schedule to come and open the distillery and it was great being able to showcase to him what we do.”

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During his brief visit, Charles toured the premises, meeting members of staff in the shop and visitors centre, the main distillery and the warehouse.

To mark the occasion, he unveiled a commemorative plaque which will be put on display inside the distillery.

Tour guide Susan Dearness was thrilled to get the chance to meet the King.

She said: “He was lovely. He was asking about my experience with whisky and what I do. He also asked what people we have had here as I speak three languages.

“It didn’t feel like something he had been forced to do.”

Dressed in Highland attire, the King was in great spirits, smiling and joking with those he met along the way.

A whisky drinker himself, Charles appeared delighted to sample a number of the firm’s products, including its peated whisky – giving it the royal seal of approval.

After hearing about how the businesses came to fruition and how the whisky is distilled, the King was given the chance to lend a hand at filling a specially selected American oak cask.

He assisted distillery manager Ryan Sutherland in filling the cask before hammering in the bung to seal it.

As his visit drew to a close, Charles signed the visitor book before greeting the Campbells’ nieces and nephews, Mathew, Gregor and Chloe MacDonald, who presented him with a selection of hand-drawn pictures.

Despite the rain, Charles also took time to speak to local business owners and visit the village food and drink market.

During his tour of the trade stalls, the King was accompanied by Andrew Mowat, treasurer of John O’Groats Development Trust.

Sandra Thain and her daughter Artemis Petry, owners of Flavours ice cream shop, said the royal visit is a real boost for the local community.

Ms Thain said: “He was very interested. He was speaking about the numbers visiting John O’Groats and how incredible it was.

“I was telling the King this is our busiest year yet. Some days you can’t get parked in the car park.

“He was a lovely man. It’s a fantastic boost for John O’Groats and he is very familiar with Caithness. It’s really nice to have the King come. It’s fantastic.”

Mandy Boydell, owner of CC Chocolates, had previously me Charles when she was head chef at the Castle of Mey and was delighted to see him again, adding: “It’s such a pleasure that he has taken the time to be here and promote John O’Groats.”

Sisters Tracey and Rachel Inkson, who have run fruit and veg suppliers Midgey Bites for three years, said: “I honestly think it’s amazing for Caithness the fact that now he’s the King that he still visits is brilliant.”

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