This time last year I published my first Scottish Brands We Love blog. It was a bit of a hit and still ranks #2 in Google Search for Scottish Brands.
So, recognising this enduring appeal, we’ve decided to make a fresh and new selection of 10 of Scotland’s best and finest independent brands updated for 2020 and again written from purely my personal perspective.
This selection spans a wide and rich diversity of sectors: textiles, gin, eyeware, audio equipment, music, books, food and even a social business. Each brand is refreshingly unique, ploughing it’s own furrow with both skill and passion. And Scottish to the core.
Let’s dive in.
Iolla, which means ‘sight’ in the Gaelic- are a glasses company with a new vision. Committed to shaking up the eyeware industry with a policy of full transparency about their pricing, products, culture and processes; this is a young brand on the rise.
The designs are cool, the business model is disruptive and the pricing is great. With showrooms in Glasgow and Edinburgh, with more on the way, what’s not to like?
The Ubiquitous Chip
The Chip – as it is affectionately known by Glaswegians – is a near-legendary watering hole and restaurant that has been the cornerstone (quite literally) of Glasgow’s Ashton Lane since 1971.
It’s a firm favourite in my house for the always-delicious (and frequently fascinating) food, the wonderfully unique environment and the outstanding service. That The Chip has born witness to 5 decades of Glasgow life and to the exploits of some of her most interesting characters is somehow detectable as soon as you set foot in the place. But most of all it’s just a glorious place to spend a few hours.
And their sister restaurant, Stravaigin, isn’t too shabby either!
Isle of Harris Distillery
Born out of a desire to provide new employment opportunities for young people on the island, and halt the long term decline in the island’s population, the Isle of Harris Distillery produces the Isle of Harris Gin.
Their Hearach single malt whisky will follow in the future but for now remains maturing in its casks. Within 4 years of opening they now employ 40 permanent staff.
I love everything about this brand: the social initiatives, the strength of their branding and visual identity, the way they communicate with the world (such a beautiful website!) and, of course, the products themselves.
The stunning Harris Gin bottle with it’s elemental curves and ripples evokes the very essence of the island and is nothing less than a work of art.
Pocket Mountains is a publishing house with a difference, creating accessible and inspiring pocket-sized guidebooks for anyone who likes a bit of an adventure!
With cycling, easy walking, wildlife and running guides covering all the best bits of Scotland, England and Wales, they aim to send folk to places they’ve never been before to do things they haven’t done before – and have fun while they’re at it.
The books are well written, beautifully designed and deliver the goods in practical terms. I recently bought their Ayrshire guide whilst researching my new GK Robert Burns Collection and instantly loved it.
Pocket Mountain’s approach is both unique and wonderfully engaging compelling the reader to get out there and discover.
If music makes life better, Linn makes music better. They create gold-standard speakers, turntables, music streamers and network music players which look beautiful and sound even better.
It was the Linn Sondek LP12 turntable launched in 1972 – immune from acoustic feedback – that propelled Linn to worldwide fame and is still widely consider one of the best turntables ever made.
And the same revolutionary and exacting standards have since been applied to a growing range of hardware and digital streaming services.
Rosemary Eribé is passionate about about creating beautiful, quality knitwear using natural yarns and innovative designs. Her brand is renowned for it’s colour, pattern, and craftsmanship; fusing traditional techniques and a fun, modern aesthetic.
A champion of sustainability, her personal mission is to share knowledge and resources with other producers; this she sees as the only way to re-establish knitting as a vital industry in Scotland.
ERIBÉ pieces are made using age-old knowledge and skills and are made to last. Future heirlooms, one and all.
Inspired by the ‘social business’ philosophy of Nobel Peace Prize winning economist Proffessor Muhammad Yunus, Josh Littlejohn MBE and Alice Thompson founded Social Bite in 2012.
With 5 cafes in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen and a fine-dining restaurant in Edinburgh, their mission is to help end homelessness in Scotland. A third of their staff have struggled with homelessness in the past and they provide free meals (140,000 items of healthy free food last year!) and hot drinks to homeless people every day. Their Social Supper events connect 400 vulnerable people every week with food, support and opportunities.
The Social Bite village (funded by their well-known Sleep in the Park events) is an innovative, highly supported community for up to 20 people affected by homelessness which aims to bridge the gap between homelessness and an independent life.
This is a brand that makes me proud to be Scottish.
Isle of Mull Cheese
Sgiob Ruadh Farm, a family run dairy farm situated on the Isle of Mull on the West Coast of Scotland is the home of Isle of Mull Cheese; a traditional, unpasteurised Farmhouse cheese which they have been making there for 30 years. And it’s delicious.
There is a beautiful simplicity and authenticity to this brand. They make just 3 core products and flavour one of their wax-covered Isle of Mull Flavells with Ledaig Whisky from the nearby Tobermory Distillery.
This is a small brand punching above their weight and providing a masterclass in the power of doing 1 thing exceptionally well.
While at first glance this may appear an unusual inclusion in a list of Scottish Brands, let’s not be too quick to judge.
Eddi Reader has carved out an enduring, distinguished and highly individual position in the music industry. Beyond which she has also diversified into acting. Along the way she has picked up new audiences, multiple awards and notable sales successes. These are all terms and descriptions that sit as comfortably with a ‘business’ brand as a recording artist.
Here are a few Eddi Reader milestones to contemplate:
• 1988: UK #1 single with her first single release with Fairground Attraction; UK #2 album
• 1989: Best Album award at The Brits
• 2003: records her solo album Sings the Songs of Robert Burns with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra
• 2006: awarded an MBE for outstanding contribution to the arts
What an artist. What a talent. What a career.
A worthy and very welcome musical addition to our Scottish Brands We Love 2020 list.
Last but not least, we have taken the liberty to include ourselves in this inspiring and esteemed company.
Let me explain why…
Running and growing an online business where we design, source, finance, promote and, at the end of the day, sell 100s of our own unique product lines is no walk in the park.
Here’s what we’ve done in 2019 to further the Gillian Kyle brand:
• celebrated our 10th year in business and ongoing collaboration with Tunnock’s
• launched our Recipes of Scotland infographics collection
• launched our new Robert Burns collection
• revamped our Tunnock’s and Forth Bridges ranges and many others
2019 has been a fun, exciting and year of substantial growth. Here’s to the next 10 years.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the 10 Scottish Brands We Love for 2020 and agree with us that each of these brands makes a unique contribution to Scottish life. I’d be delighted if this has inspired you to find out more about some of them and shop more Scottish this year!
If you love all things Scottish, please sign up to my mailing list so I can send you my next Scottish Story.
Till next time,