A proposal for a new craft gin company and distillery in Kirkcudbright has won the inaugural Guy & Co-creation Award.

The idea for the Dark Art Gin company was submitted to the competition by Andrew Clark Hutchison, a former banker who spent twelve years of his career specialising in the food and drink sector, with a particular focus on drinks.

Andrew’s plan for Dark Art Gin has been developed over the last two years after he took voluntary redundancy from Lloyds Bank. It includes creating a distillery with a visitor experience and shop in the derelict but beautiful old Johnston School, which is located in the centre of Kirkcudbright. Andrew’s family roots are in the town – he will be the fifth generation of his family to live and work in Kirkcudbright.

The Dark Art Gin distillery and visitor experience and shop will be housed in two former classrooms of the school, which was originally built in 1847. Renovation work will start in Spring 2019, with an opening later in the year.

Dark Art Gin will launch with two as yet unnamed gins; a core dry gin and a Navy strength gin. The distillery also aims to produce other spirits such as vodka.

Andrew said: “I’m delighted that Dark Art Gin has won the inaugural Guy Co-creation® Award. This fantastic award will enable us to establish a long-term relationship with innovative creative & research agency, Guy & Co.

“We look forward to working with their brilliant team in creating an imaginative and inspiring brand strategy for Dark Art Gin as well as bringing the whole project to life and fulfilling its exciting and ambitious plans.”

The competition and award was launched by Edinburgh creative and research agency, Guy & Co to help innovative Scottish food and drink businesses turn a great idea into winning brands.

Between June and October, businesses were able to submit entries for the award, with the winning company Dark Art Gin receiving a comprehensive go-to-market prize package worth more than £65,000, including a consumer-validated brand identity, packaging and sell-in materials from Guy & Co.

The judging panel, which included the former chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink, Paul McLaughlin, felt Andrew demonstrated an innovate winning product idea with a compelling social impact agenda, as well as a clear business plan with route to market and production capability.

Paul McLaughlin said: “The food and drink industry in Scotland is booming. There are new brands springing up all the time. However many of them are lifestyle brands; good products founded by passionate people with boundless energy and drive, but without the financial clout to really make an impact.

“In judging the inaugural Guy Co-creation Award, I saw a real vision from Andrew Clark Hutchison with Dark Art Gin. His compelling story of the brand, its home in Kirkcudbright with the distillery and visitor centre destination he is creating, coupled with his funding, drive and exporting ambitions make this a real product to watch.

“Many of the competition entries would have been worthy winners, but Dark Art Gin really stood out from the crowd and will truly benefit from the work that David and the team at Guy & Co will offer as the prize.”

Dark Art Gin will now benefit from a package of services supplied by Guy & Co, including brand planning; brand proposition and architecture development; consumer testing of brand identity concepts; packaging design & artwork; and development of sell-in materials, including a brand website. Assistance with PR strategy is also included from Guy & Co’s public relations partner, Beeline PR, with specialist accounting and tax input from French Duncan.

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