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Mackays’ Supplier Series: Caithness Smokehouse

Posted: April 15th, 2019 | Posted in: Mackays' Supplier Series

Is that smoke we are smelling? Don’t fear, it’s no fire – only our supplier of the month, Caithness Smokehouse!

Operating as an award-winning cottage industry, owners John and Christine operate in the most northerly smokehouse in mainland Britain. Through their proximity to the port of Scrabster, all of the products from Caithness Smokehouse are locally sourced through sustainable suppliers, ensuring the finest and freshest product is created in an ethical manner.

To uncover the mysteries of modern smoking, proud owner, John took a few minutes to tell us the story behind the smoked delicacies of Caithness.

1. Could you tell us the story behind Caithness Smokehouse? Where did it all begin for you?

The business, Caithness Smokehouse, started around thirteen years ago. It all started as I felt that Caithness was not receiving enough attention from the standpoint of tourists passing through. I was intrigued by the fact that despite the abundance of good produce available within the county, smokehouses were disappearing from villages around the coast. With the process of traditional smokehouses very much becoming a dying art, I decided that it was my chance to give it a go!


2.  How did you come up with the name for your company?

The naming of the business was originally going to be the area which I lived in. However, I realised that there are no other dedicated smokehouses in Caithness. My main goal of the business was to promote Caithness, so the title became Caithness Smokehouse. My logo represents this, with an image of the north of Scotland with Caithness as a county highlighted to amplify that we are Caithness smokers.


 3. What would you say makes Caithness Smokehouse special?

Although there are other people producing smoked produce, I believe that we are the only people who offer a range of smoked products. Given this novelty, we try to develop new products – one of the most successful of these including smoked butter. We send lots of this butter away every week to London, where we cater to a Michelin star restaurant.

Additionally, we are a member of the Guild of Fine Food. Every year, we send them our produce for a taste analysis, with each year bringing newly awarded stars. These awards are particularly special in that chefs outside of Caithness – particularly in England – examine which suppliers receive stars and will often come up to me asking about our award winning produce through which we have connections across the UK.


5. What do you like most about having a business in Caithness?

I love Caithness and wouldn’t really want to live anywhere else. Because we’re based in Caithness and are well known in Caithness, it is beneficial that we know the people we are working with and provides a flexibility as we are all so close.

We are very involved in Caithness. We attend local shows and the county shows such as the Halkirk games, with a lot of work at smaller events as well. Additionally, we work with schools within the county, visiting them for talks as well as having students coming along for summer visits. During these visits, we explain things about the history of smoking and show them the developments from the processes of a traditional kiln to modern type of smoking establishment as well as giving them a taste of all the products. We promote children through encouraging the habit of trying something different, starting with the sampling of smoked mussels, cheese or eggs!

Which is your favourite place in Caithness?

My favourite place in Caithenss is somewhere I often go in search of relaxation, it is a place which I have visited since a child. If you venture into the Flow country near Loch Moor, a little bit further lies a small loch called Loch Callum. It offers a great chance to relax, where I go fishing – for fun rather than business on this occasion! It is a wonderful way to get out into the flow country of Caithness, which I think is outstanding.


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