Blairhoyle based craftsman Keith Burnett has gone from cutting through giant 25 tonne rocks to hand-finishing tiny 20-millimetre cubes, in a bid to break into Scotland’s thriving drinks industry.
His range of Modern Stone Age whisky and gin stones – designed to cool drinks without affecting their taste – are not only made in Scotland, but from its very landscape, as Keith explains:
“As well as being famous for its distilleries, Scotland is also home to some of the oldest rock formations on the planet. We saw a gap in the market for an ‘all Scottish’ product fit for our national drink. While many whisky stone products on the market are made from American soapstone, our drink stones come from the very mountains that produce some of the world’s finest whiskies. We only use local whinstone and greenschist– some of the hardest and densest stones on earth. The stones work to cool a glass of complex single malt whisky or beautiful botanical gin without diluting its distinctive taste.”
A modern-day version of the stone age man, Keith has even fashioned his own tools to perfect the manufacturing process. Keith said:
“For thousands of years man has relied on stone products and they’re just as useful today. I’ve always enjoyed tinkering with machinery and spent 3-4 years creating the perfect machine to cut and shape our whisky stones, which I then finish off by hand before sending them out to customers all over the world. Unlike cutting large pieces of stone there is a lot more precision involved. Just 1 millimetre out and the stone will look lopsided. I also discovered, after lots of research and experimenting with different sizes, that 20mm cubes were best for temperature retention.”
Keith’s family have lived in Blairhoyle, near Port of Menteith, Stirlingshire, since 1842, just along the road from one of Scotland’s largest natural stone suppliers Tradstocks – where he sources all his materials.
“I initially started out in farming but quickly realised that the type of farming I grew up with and had loved was not sustainable in more modern times. So, I moved on to construction and demolition where I marvelled at the buildings that we were dismantling for stone salvage. They were perfectly built by extremely practical and clever people without the assistance of lasers, CAD programs, global positioning systems or machinery. This sparked my interest in stone and building I have worked with stone all my life, from building and repairing drystone dykes when I was young to building new houses with stone today.”
Keith now plans to collaborate with Scottish whisky and gin brands to create a bespoke range of stones matched to the rocks where the drinks are distilled.