Reflections on where we are: James Sutherland from South Loch Gin & 56 North

No need to repeat what we all know, we’re living in strange times indeed and at The Scottish Gin Society, we believe that every one of you who are living through this is a hero. While everyone has been affected differently, several weeks into the life-changing crisis, we have been speaking to some of our Scottish Gin-producing friends, big and small and finding out what’s been happening and how the future is looking for them.

First up, we spoke to James Sutherland from 56 North in Edinburgh and South Loch Gin to see how things have changed and find out what they’ve been up to (we’ve totally stolen his mystery food box idea btw!):

How has the Coronavirus crisis impacted your business so far?

So far we’ve been massively hit, every sector of our business is linked to hospitality – with the 56 North, gin experiences and South Loch Gin distillery all being directly hit

What changes have you had to make to adapt to ‘the new normal’?

We’ve adapted as fast as we can.  We’ve launched for gin & tonic deliveries covering loads of small brands in and around the Edinburgh area we have around 100 products listed now.  We are also helping Andrew at Cushidoo tonic run a similar service.  Both can be found on our website with some amazing deals on a bottle of gin and case of tonic with speedy delivery, same or next day.

What positives/upsides do you see in these weird times?

The support of our customers.  They know we have been hit, and like everyone in our sector the main parts of our trade have little to no income in the bar or experiences.  Our customers have supported us with buying gift voucher for 56 North and sales of South Loch Gin bottles have been amazing via 

How’s life at home?

I’d much rather be at work, but I’ve got loads of odd jobs done around the house I’ve wanted to do for ages.  Both myself and the other half love cooking so I’ve been busy trying loads of new food ideas and we’ve even done “ready steady cook” a few times with “blind box” made up for the other to cook which has been a lot of fun.  I’ll name check another great small Scottish company – I am lucky to have an amazing Ooni pizza oven which has had more use than ever and I’d highly recommend them for any readers.

What are your hopes and plans for: 1. the next few months:

Hopes and plans are to get back to normal with South Loch Gin, 56 North and all our gin experiences.  I’m very aware this will be a “new normal” but I feel we’ve successfully adapted the business over the 12 years.  I see no reason we can’t adapt as the team are superb innovators.  I’m blessed with an amazing group with Lindsay (South Loch Gin) Gary (GM of 56 North) Neil (Gin experiences manager) and I’m certain we as a team will bounce back.  My personal aim as an employer is to do my upmost to keep the whole team of 22 people and I’d love it if each and every one of them has a job and future in the business.  This will take the full support of the public once restrictions lift.  I feel the Scottish public understand they need to support the smaller independent businesses in their region first and foremost and I’d encourage them to do this.

2. And the coming year?

hat the Scottish tourist trade and hospitality sectors can bounce back within 12 months.  We’re a small country and we need tourism as it’s our life blood for so many jobs, hotels, bars, distilleries, restaurants etc.  I think we have a very tough period going through to spring 2021 though and the support of the Scottish public is key. I especially feel for the smallest operators in more rural locations who rely on the summer season for their whole years trade.  It’s only words but I hope they stay positive and can find a way to survive to get into the 2021 season.

How do you think this will affect the Scottish Gin industry as a whole?

We’re a resilient bunch.  I’ve spoken to loads of brands during this period and while no-one hasn’t been effected everyone has been cheery and positive about what they can do.  Hand-sanitsers has been made by everyone who can, gin is still being produced as demand is there (please by local!) and people are planning already for a more delivery led future.   I am hopeful that once restrictions lift and the hospitality sector is back then sales will return to normal for most brands. 

Thanks to James for sharing his thoughts, we hope to see him at 56 North again soon! In the meantime, if you’re looking for a gin delivery in the Edinburgh area, check out

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