Highland Game making a name
The unique habitat of the Angus glens is ideal territory for a variety of game
When Dundee-based Highland Game set out to supply venison in the late 1990s, many of their contemporaries in the food industry thought they were foolish to focus on what was then, in Britain, a very niche product. But almost 20 years on, venison has hit the mainstream, thanks in no small part to the dedication of managing director Christian Nissen and his team.
'Nowadays our venison makes its way to the shelves of virtually all the major retailers, as well as many of the top restaurants in London and elsewhere in the UK,' Nissen explains. 'A lot of that venison is sourced from Angus estates, such as Glenprosen, Tulchan, Gannocky and especially Invermark.'
The Angus glens are a fertile area, not just for deer, but for game in general, with each of the five glens offering different types of habitat suited to a wide variety of animals. Pheasant, partridge and roe deer can be found on the lower slopes, while the higher ground is ideal for ptarmigan and red deer.
Snipe, woodcock, rabbit, hare and wild duck are all hunted in the region too, while red grouse can be found among the heather in the upland moors, especially in Glen Esk which, with no through road, stretches largely unspoilt for almost fifteen miles, making it a secluded spot for game to thrive. So much so, in fact, that game-keeping is now one of the biggest sources of seasonal and permanent employment in the Angus glens.
And just as the popularity of venison has soared, so too has there been a resurgence in game in general, especially in the catering trade. As well as gracing the tables of some of the country's most renowned restaurants, there are a host of Angus kitchens every bit as eager to make the most of the fresh produce available right on their doorsteps. The Glenisla Hotel in Blairgowrie, for instance, gets its game directly from the Brewlands and Tulchan estates, while the Drovers Inn shares an owner with Glenogil estate. 'It's a chef's dream,' says head chef Eden Sinclair, 'as it means we can experiement with different recipes and methods of cooking. Keep it nice and simple – you don't need to mess around with such good ingredients.'