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Toll House Spirits Raise a Glass to Poppyscotland

An artisan Angus drinks producer is adding new lines which will recognise a century of remembering soldiers who died in conflicts around the world, while raising money for Poppyscotland.

Arbroath-based Toll House Spirits Ltd is launching a new range of spirits which will raise funds for Poppyscotland in the process.

As a local Poppy Partner, they were put in touch with the fundraising team at Poppyscotland to see how they could help on a larger scale, to commemorate 100 years of the poppy being the nation’s symbol of remembrance.

“We had a long chat with Erika Mather, their corporate fundraiser over Zoom in November last year and lots of ideas came forward,” explained Fiona Walsh, one of Toll House Spirits directors.

“Within a few days we went off exploring all avenues and decided to launch a new range of spirits under the Toll House brand.

“We are known for our existing range of Redcastle products – gins, liqueurs and rum, but we wanted to offer something completely new.”

To help get this ambitious initiative off the ground, they enlisted the help of their partner distiller, Lewis Scothern, who has come up with a variety of recipes and ideas and received design help from Erik Porter of Union Creative in Montrose.

“We like to keep things local so being able to work with two fellow Angus businesses is great,” added Fiona.

“We knew what look and feel we wanted to achieve but Erik has really brought our ideas to life. The team are now working hard to get the range ready to launch in a matter of days.”

As Toll House prepares for launch, bottles and caps have been delivered, labels are arriving this week, and equipment has arrived from Italy to enable them to fit the tamper-proof seals to their bottles.

“We were a little nervous that the kit would get held up due to Brexit, but we only encountered a slight delay which was a relief,” said Fiona.

The initial Poppyscotland range will comprise a spiced rum and a citrus vodka, retailing at £25 for a 70cl, with £1 per bottle going straight to the charity.

Fiona continued: “We will also add a gin to the new Toll House line-up as there is no getting away from the continued popularity of gin here in Scotland right now. In time, the team plan to add a blended Scotch whisky to the range, too.

“I’ve worked for a number of years in the spirits industry, and it has always been a dream of mine to create a new brand of Scotch whisky. It now feels within reach which is extremely exciting.”

Head of fundraising and learning at Poppyscotland, Gordon Michie, added: “We are delighted to be working with Toll House Spirits on the launch of their new artisan spirits range.

“This is an extremely exciting year as we celebrate 100 years of the poppy being the nation’s symbol of Remembrance in November.

“Our vital, life-changing support for the Armed Forces community is needed now more than ever and the year-round presence a partnership like this brings helps to ensure that our Armed Forces community can access our services whenever they need it.

“Our sincere thanks go to Fiona and the Toll House team for all their support showing that they too are ‘Behind Them, Always’.”
The range will launch online from Friday and will be available to retailers and on-trade outlets from early May.

The team also hope to bring the new range to their first farmers’ market of 2021 in Arbroath this Sunday (April 25).

“We are in advanced talks with a number of retailers across Scotland and while it is challenging to get a listing for a new range there is definitely interest in the products which is fantastic,” explained Fiona.

“This new range allows us to supply higher volume retailers and hospitality outlets as we can produce and bottle faster, whilst not jeopardising the quality of the product in the bottle.

“We will continue to focus on our Redcastle and Broughty Ferry brands for independent retail, on-trade and online, as they have enjoyed strong growth during lockdown.

“We have worked hard delivering bottles up and down the country, but we have thoroughly enjoyed it and feel a lot closer to our amazing customers. The positive feedback has been so lovely to receive. Without them, the last 12 months would have been really tough.”

It is certainly a busy time for the small team of three, with Fiona joined by her husband, John, and sister, Angela (Jarron), who all bring years of experience and lots of enthusiasm to the growing business.

“It has been an interesting year or so. We took full ownership of the Redcastle brand in February 2020, just weeks before lockdown (having created the brand back in 2017),” added Fiona.

“We moved into new premises in Arbroath, provided hand sanitiser to the local community, launched four new gins, hosted over 50 online gin tastings and got our retail shop up and running – it’s been a bit of a whirlwind, but we wouldn’t have it any other way!”

Once restrictions ease, the team have exciting plans for an on-site tasting room and distilling experience days.

Fiona revealed: “We love sharing what we do, our online tastings have been really popular, but nothing beats hosting people here at our new home and we can’t wait to do that.

“We currently have a team of joiners, electricians and painters working tirelessly to allow us to open as soon as we can.”

The mother-of-two brings years of experience in the drinks industry having worked with some of the UK’s major drinks brands and has been responsible for large-scale development of supermarket own label and branded spirits.

Her business partners, husband John, and sister, Angela, support her in the day-to-day running of the business.

It really is a family affair with the company taking its name from the childhood home of Angela and Fiona’s late mum, Ruth.

“Mum, or Ruthie as she was affectionately called, grew up in the Taranty Toll House in Trinity, Brechin, and she was enormously proud of her Angus roots,” said Fiona.

“It felt very fitting to name the company as a little nod to her, she was a brave woman and we have certainly had a few challenges to face over the last 12 months or so and we have embraced her tenacious way of tackling things.

“Her beloved dad was a Royal Engineer in World War Two and we think she would be really pleased with this link up with Poppyscotland.”

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