The Perthshire fruit winery that operates by its own rules
Produce from unconventional Cairn O’Mohr stocked in Jenners and Balmoral Castle
‘It all started in the late 80s when a friend gave me a book about fruit wines,’ recounts Ron Gillies, who runs Cairn O’Mohr with his wife Judith. ‘I was into making herbal teas and was always out picking things. At first we just made it for ourselves. We started taking it to parties and found we were making more and more. At the time no one was selling it and we thought, well, why not us?’
Sourcing berries from nearby farms and foraging from local hedgerows and woodlands, the couple became recognisable fixtures at markets up and down the country, drawing browsers in to taste their oak leaf or gooseberry white wines, bramble and elderberry reds, and Great Taste Awards gold winner Strawbubbly.
A chance encounter with a busload of tourists saw them begin to offer organised winery tours; an on-site shop and café at their base near Errol followed. Now they welcome thousands of visitors annually to experience Cairn o’ Mohr’s gently eccentric, homespun appeal. There’s a fairytale quality to the set-up, aided in no small part by the carved wooden statues and bright murals that adorn the walls of the buildings.
The oddness is something Gillies revels in. ‘I called a buyer once and he said “ah, you’ll want my colleague who deals with the strange wines” and I thought, actually, that about sums us up.’
But those ‘strange wines’, along with their Scottish ciders and non-alcoholic sparkling elderflower, have proved enduringly popular, and can now be found everywhere from small independents to high-end retailers like Jenners and the gift shop shelves at Balmoral Castle.
The unconventional approach extends to their willingness to experiment too, regularly producing limited edition batches using everything from roots to wild flowers.
‘Sometimes I get a phone call. “Can you do anything with beetroot?”. And I think, well, we’ll give it a go.’