scotland's makers & creators
river rock whisky
We speak with Mark Geary, Co-Founder of River Rock Whisky on the creation of a single malt based on the Fife Coast, on the creation of a single malt, done differently; Welcoming more people into whisky in a distinctive and sustainable way, and his passion for the great Scottish outdoors.
FG: So Mark, tell us a wee bit about your history in the whisky industry and eventually what led you to start River Rock Whisky?
MG: Well, I’ve been in the whisky industry for more than 20 years. I started with Highland Distillers, based in Perth. I went onto to work with Highland Park, The Macallan, Glenrothes…I actually started a whisky brand many years ago, a craft whisky concept. It was almost too early before the whole craft movement became popular.
Whisky is just a great drink, but sometimes we make it a bit difficult for people to get into and enioy. Sometimes we believe some people might find it difficult to get into whisky, the knowledge you might need, the rituals, the fancy words. I’ve always thought ‘hang on a minute, this is great for some people, the very traditional, classic’ but that side of it never appealed to me…so I thought there must be more people like me and that is really how River Rock started. We wanted to do things differently, not just churn out the same old concepts that exist in the whisky industry.
FG: We saw that in evidence with a recent campaign which we read got banned from the advertising authorities…although I’m sure it was positive PR in the end?
MG: Yes, it was a genuine mistake that we won more friends than enemies. In the end it was one complaint on one social post and it made national press!
FG: It’s now just over a year since you started, how has the brand developed in this time?
MG: It has been great so far. We started with producing 100 limited edition bottles and sold by ballot which we ended up selling many times over so not everyone was able to get the first batch. Since we have made 5 further exclusive batches (1400 bottles each) and have been able to keep our early customers happy and have now expanded and selling into 40 stores across the UK and we have started exporting to Germany and France. But the main thing is that we have made an award winning product that we are proud of and after many small steps to get there, have a whisky which really resonates with people that may not have considered whisky being their drink of choice.
FG: So we can’t talk about River Rock without talking about the distinctive bottle, made of waste glass, tell us how the concept came to life?
MG: It took over three years from the initial idea, including the sourcing for the whisky to get the product to market. For the bottle itself, we wanted to create a bottle that looked like a bottle that had been eroded by a river and a shape and design that would stand out and look very different to standard whisky packaging. Normally when you create a bottle, you go straight from CAD to production but as this was a unique design, we actually had to use clay models and had to do numerous version until we could get the right structure. At this point it could be scanned into some software, then a 3D print created which eventually leads to the glass bottles being crafted. The material was another challenge, using waste glass (which is the glass that is left over from the production of standard shaped bottles that would otherwise go unused) meant that every bottle would look different. We decided to celebrate that every bottle is unique, as we wanted to make in the most sustainable way and now it has become part of the brand identity.
This has been taken further, our packaging uses no plastics, no foils or harmful chemical inks are used. And we don’t use any boxes. We’ve made a beautiful bottle and don’t want to box it. This cuts down, arguably, unnecessary packaging
"It’s a Single Malt which is sweeter, more welcoming with no aggressive aromas or 'burn'."
"we want to make sure this place is here to be enjoyed, 30, 40, 200 years time…so people can enjoy what I enjoy now."
"I’m spoilt, as close by I have Crail, Anstruther and Elie. Some great courses which are great for a quick round..."
FG: What are your favourite places in Scotland?
MG: If I had to choose one spot (apart from home), it would be Torridon on the West Coast. It’s still beautifully wild and you can just escape in the great outdoors. The Outer Hebrides, Harris and Barr, are unique with some of the most amazing views in the world.
FG: And onto your golf, where do you play?
MG: The one I play most, Crail is local to me, which is great. Being in Scotland and whisky for so long I’ve been lucky to play many courses, including all of the St Andrews Links. I’m spoilt, as close by I have St Andrews, Anstruther and Elie, including some great 9 hole courses which is great for a quick round…and of course, followed by a whisky!