Rookery Craft Mead
Tell us about your business - when did it start and what do you sell?
After a 20 year career in the Army, I wanted to come home to Scotland. In 2014, I set up The Rookery to indulge my interested in brewing mead, which I'd been doing as a hobby for over 20 years and to pursue my interest in Scotland's history and archæology. I got into mead while studying Gaelic at the University of Aberdeen, and my studies have taken my from looking at the Celtic Iron Age backthrough the Bronze Age and into the Neolithic. I make everything by hand; there is no automation in The Rookery. I work by feel, using all the senses, and working with spirit and feeling, rather than relying on a computer to get everything exactly the same as the times before. In this way, I feel I am working in touch with the 200 generations of mead-makers who have gone before me, in these hills.
What is special about your products?
There are only a handful of meadmakers in the UK who make proper mead; which is fermented honey. I never add sugar to any of my products and all the adjuncts are real, not flavourings or syrups. Most of what I use, I forage from the hills around the Rookery, from birch sap in March through to hawthorn and sloes in the autumn. Almost everything I use would have been available to our Neolithic ancestors. This is so important to me, that I'm currently developing a proposal to go back to university to study this subject at post-graduate level.
Do you have any products that you are launching specifically for Christmas?
I have two products that I only sell during the Yule period: The first is Midwinter Mead. This is a mead made with whole oranges, fresh ginger and Somali frankincense. These flavours became incredibly popular through the C11th and C12th, and this is a very authentic taste of mediæval Yule.
The second is my Cask Reserve. I draw off some of my traditional mead and I age it for a further year in oak casks, giving it a whisky-like note, albeit with the smoothness of my mead. Because of space limitations, I only make a small amount of this each year. Once it's gone, it's gone until the following year. Because it is limited, each bottle has the batch and bottle number written on it, so it is as collectable as it is drinkable.
What are you looking forward to most about being part of the Online Medieval Christmas Fayre?
2019 was my first year at LMCF, and I made a bunch of new friends amongst the other traders as well as the customers. I'm hoping to catch up with a few of these people, even if it is only across the airwaves.
What can people expect when they find you in the online Christmas Market for the month?
I love what I do. I love talking about what I do. Feel free to write or call and have a chat about mead, history, or archæology or anything, really. At least if we're talking by e-mail, you'll get a chance to say something, because I don't often stop talking to breathe in!
What are you looking to most about Christmas this year?
We celebrate Yule on the day of the solstice, rather than the 25th. Therefore, as a family, we are usually quite self-contained. We'll have a feast in front of the fire, drink a bit too much and just chill. Having two musical teenagers, there will likely be a lot of guitar and banjo being played. I might get the pipes out!