Kirkvagr Gin sails into Kirkwall for official launch

Orkney’s new premium quality gin, Kirkjuvagr, will be officially revealed in the islands’ capital this weekend.

The gin has been created by Orkney Distilling Limited, run by Kirkwall couple Stephen and Aly Kemp, after months of painstaking research and recipe trials using a unique blend of Orcadian botanicals.

Demand for the new gin has been exceptionally high, with bars, shops and restaurants throughout Orkney and the Scottish mainland all keen to obtain a supply of Kirkjuvagr.

Kirkjuvagr is being hailed as “unmistakably Orcadian” in character, with its branding and marketing drawing on strong Norse and seafaring themes. The gin’s name means “Church Bay” in Old Norse, reflecting the Kemps’ desire to create a premium product that paid homage to the history of Orkney, while also appealing to the contemporary gin market.

“We’ve spent a very long time perfecting the recipe for Kirkjuvagr and are exceptionally pleased with the end result,” said Stephen Kemp. “We’ve worked closely with the Agronomy Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands in Kirkwall to come up with a blend of local botanicals that we think will set Kirkjuvagr apart from other gins and we’d like to thank the team at the Institute for their input. All the feedback we’ve had so far in trial tastings has been incredibly positive, so we’re confident we’ve created a product that sits well amongst other premium spirit brands.”

Angelica is one of the key ingredients in the new gin, and the plant being used is one found in only a couple of specific locations in Orkney. This plant was taken to the islands centuries ago by sailors from the Faroes and has been grown from seed at the Agronomy Institute’s site overlooking Kirkwall Bay.

Other ingredients include Ramanas Rose, Burnet Rose, Borage and, uniquely, traditional Orcadian bere barley.

“The Angelica’s Norse connection gave us a nice link to our Viking ancestors and we thought it was essential to use it in our recipe,” said Stephen. “We’ve also enjoyed incorporating it into our branding, the quality of which reflects the premium nature of Kirkjuvagr Gin. We’re particularly pleased with the final appearance of the packaging. It’s distinctive and instantly recognisable as an Orcadian product, but it’s one that will sit well in bars, shops and restaurants throughout the country.”

Stephen said full production of Kirkjuvagr would move to Kirkwall once Orkney Distilling Limited’s new Ayre Road distillery and visitor centre was completed next year.

Kirkjuvagr is being officially launched in The Brig Larder, Kirkwall, on Saturday 6 August, where the Orkney Distilling team will be on-site to showcase the new gin.

Although the launch is exclusive to Orkney, distribution to the rest of the UK will begin next month, along with online sales.

A competition to win one of three bottles of Batch 1 Kirkjuvagr is currently running on the Orkney Distilling Limited website, A short promotional video, made with the help of Orkney Rowing Club, is also available to view on the Kirkjuvagr Gin Facebook page at

Aly Kemp added: “We’d like to take this opportunity, ahead of Kirkjuvagr’s official launch, to extend our heartfelt thanks to the Orkney community for their support over the past few months. We’ve been overwhelmed by the level of interest, particularly on our Facebook page, and we look forward to hearing what everyone thinks of our new gin. Hopefully, we’ve done Orkney proud.”


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