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Discover Blackthorn Scottish Sea Salt

Blackthorn Scottish Sea Salt

Scottish Sea Salt Flakes

found in the following categories:
Blackthorn Sea Salt, Salt, Ayrshire, Scotland

DISCOVER BLACKTHORN SCOTTISH SEA SALT

ABOUT BLACKTHORN SCOTTISH SEA SALT

Blackthorn Sea Salt produce sea salt flakes from 100% Scottish West Coast sea water and nothing else; no adding, no seeding, no bleaching, just pure Scottish sea salt, meaning that when you taste Blackthorn Salt you taste nature – the sea, the winds and the thorns.

Salt is the single most transformative ingredient of all time, clean and unrefined, and the taste of Blackthorn Sea Salt is everything a discerning palate requires – sweet, with a mouth-watering tang. Used cleverly it can transform the mediocre, enhance a range of flavours or add a suggestion of rolling moreishness and sophistication to any meal.

For us the sheer delight of Blackthorn Sea Salt derives from their method, which uses a specially constructed graduation tower, packed with blackthorn branches, to refine by evaporation the water (to increase its saline content) which is not only responsible for the salts slightly off white colour but, we believe, adds something distinct to its taste.

Created by Salter, Founder and former Architect Gregorie, he first came across these impressive graduation towers in Poland and Germany back in 2007. Although those thorn towers hadn’t produced any food salt for over 50 years, Gregorie was inspired by the practicality, naturalness and beauty of the process, and after 12 years of committed research, language issues, prototypes and umpteen trials and errors later, the Blackthorn Tower was built. For the first time in history sea water, not rock brine was trickled down a bespoke thorn tower and, on 20th June 2019, the very first mini batch of Blackthorn Salt crystals was hand harvested. Salt production had finally come home to Scotland’s Ayrshire coast.

The history of Salt in Scotland is fascinating (if a little niche). It can be traced from the Roman and viking times through to medieval period via the monastic records and royal commissions, although smaller and less reported enterprises will have been hugely prevalent as well. Then, during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots, a conscious effort was made to expand the Scottish Salt Industry as a salt tax was introduced and the industry presented more of a commercial opportunity rather than just a family necessity. It grew, fluctuating and benefitting from the onset of various wars and interruptions to the imported salt trade, then saw its heyday with the growth of coal mining which provided the fire power for evaporation and the Union of the Parliaments in 1707 when the Scots wilily ensured that English salt would be subjected to higher taxation, making the domestic salt cheaper. The view from the Blackthorn tower top alone shows some of the lasting clues of the local salt legacy – the sea itself, Salt Pans Road, the gable ends of Maryburgh Pan Houses, the local street names reflecting all the old pan sites, Salt fields, the old mine shafts and air vents are all there, the Carnegie library where the records are kept, Greenan castle where monastic salt was made in the 1100’s, all quietly surrounding them, all the time.

At Blackthorn Salt, they do not need to make a show of their provenance or terroir, they just look up and know. Their location and sense of place is at the core of who they are: the West Coast of Scotland. It is their backdrop, their history and their inspiration.

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BLACKTHORN SEA SALT METHOD

The first stages of the Blackthorn journey are wild and require nothing but nature: the West Coast seas and winds. Reminiscent of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, their imposing tower of thorns sits facing the sea and the mountains of Arran. This spiky structure is incredibly effective as well as being visually impressive: it enables a significant acceleration of the evaporation process required for sea salt production. Scottish West Coast sea water is slowly trickled through the country’s only graduation thorn tower whilst being evaporated by the exhilarating West Coast winds. The sea water is pumped to the top of the tower. Across the top of the tower are 56 wooden taps which when opened allow the sea water to move along wooden channels across the full length and breadth of the tower from where it then dribbles down through the blackthorn bushes before reaching the collection tanks at ground level. The sea water seeps along every twig and thorn, maximising exposure to the powerful and persistent coastal winds (and any sun that might be showing face). The emerging droplets partially evaporate and any remaining liquid becomes a more concentrated brine. The purpose of this process is to spread the water out as thinly as possible, over the greatest area, as the greater the surface area, then the greater the rate of evaporation. Environmental factors such as wind speed and direction, temperature and humidity all effect the evaporation process, which results in increases in salinity of the water of between 1-5% for each pass down through the tower.

Only when the concentration is at around 22% is the now more concentrated sea water moved to the pan house where, in a double skinned pan, the brine is heated and salt flakes start to form in the salt water in their magical pyramid form. This final stage is all skill and alchemy combining the now exceptionally salty brine, with the the intricate knowledge of their salters about salt with some gentle heat and nothing else… at all. The salt flakes form upside down and float down to the bottom of the pan, from where they are raked and shovelled onto trays to allow a couple more days of air drying. Finally they have a short 30 min blast in an oven to remove any excess moisture before being packaged for sale.

The Graduation Tower is primarily manufactured from hardwood. In the 6th Century, the first graduation towers used straw, but this rotted and fouled the brine. The technology matured over the following centuries and blackthorn bushels became prized for its hardiness and longevity. Today, there are several enormous and working examples of such towers in Germany and Poland. These no longer produce salt per se, but are run as spas, inviting tourists and locals with respiratory difficulties to come and breathe the briney air. Blackthorn were chosen as they are hard and their rigidity ensures that when packed together they do not clump and the valuable surface area of the branches and thorns is not lost. Still very much experimental, it is expected that the blackthorn branches will only need replacing every 7-10 years.

As with everything with this unique concept, Blackthorn continue to learn more about how the tower works in the real world, as despite building a 2m high model for testing, to work put the best cut out angle and placement, ultimately there are an untold number of variables that they, as did their ancestors, have had to master.

Blackthorn is proud to have brought salt home to the West Coast of Scotland where it was once such a thriving local industry, essential to the daily lives of local people. Their methods and means may be very different from our forebearers’, but they would like to think they would be proud and amazed by everything that is Blackthorn Salt today.

BLACKTHORN SEA SALT PEOPLE

Taking over 15 years to develop and build, Blackthorn Sea Salt is the result of the hard work, passion and some might say obsession of it’s Founder Gregorie, as well as testament to his character for the support and help of the many people that he has taken with him on this decades long journey to return sea salt production to Scotland’s West Coast. Gregorie works with fellow ‘salter’ Malky, looking after the pan and the tower, perfecting their ‘paidling’, drawing off the salt and carefully ensuring that each batch is of the highest quality with the perfect ‘crystal crunch factor’ every time.

Malky was born and raised on the Ayrshire coast, where his family have lived for generations and cannot remember a day without the sea, the background to daily life. In daily charge of the thorn tower, he knows the nuances of every tap and most of the twigs, especially the stubborn ones. He watches the sea and the weather minutely and is in tune with the Blackthorn salt pan and every aspect of crystal emergence.

The small Blackthorn Salt team also includes Gregorie’s wife Whirly, who has left her legal career to look after Blackthorn’s marketing and social media, as well as Hayley who takes care of sales, and of course Malky who oversees production.

Gregorie Marshall

BLACKTHORN SEA SALT FOUNDER

Blackthorn Founder & Master Salter Gregorie has lived and breathed salt since day one, as his family has been involved in all things salt for five generations. By an uncanny twist of fate, just as Ayrshire’s last remaining salt pans were becoming redundant, Gregorie’s great, great grandfather founded his family business and very soon became the UK specialists in all things salt. Whilst Gregorie studied architecture, first in Newcastle and later at Glasgow’s Mac, he was eventually drawn into the family business. This allowed him to travel widely, and after visits to Japan and Poland (where he came across graduation towers) his inspiration for Blackthorn Salt began to take shape. Finally, in 2019, he was able to realise his decades long dream to reignite Scottish salt-making on the Ayrshire coast as the first batch of Blackthorn Salt was produced.

BLACKTHORN SCOTTISH SEA SALT PROVENANCE

TitleAddress Description
Saltpans Rd, Ayr KA8 8BZ, UK

BLACKTHORN SEA SALT SUSTAINABILITY

The founding principles of Blackthorn Sea Salt are to combine production of the highest quality food salt available from 100% pure west coast sea water. In doing so they aim to ensure keeping their use of resources ‘in use’ for as long as possible, to then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life and to attempt to ‘design out’ waste products. All whilst using as sustainable and responsible materials and methods as possible.

Having reintroduced salt-production to the area in a manner that the community can be proud of they are sourcing materials locally as well as supporting and holding local events.

Staying true to their roots and sense of place; they are learning from Scottish salt boiling history and adding value, quality and integrity to the process for present and future generations to ensure that what they are doing is right and best from a moral and environmental stance as well as business necessity.

They are especially proud of their blackthorn as it perfectly exhibits an example of a circular economy working in miniature. Where possible it is been sourced from local Ayrshire farms / hedges and woods which need to be cut back annually. In future, they plan to buy and plant up a field to supply the tower in future as it takes 7 to 10 years to grow and lasts in the tower for approximately 7 to 10 years. Once it has worked its magic in the tower, the blackthorn bundles will be mulched and returned to the earth to fertilise the fields and so it goes on.

On their packaging they have spent a lot of time with local companies designing and deliberating over packaging design and sustainability. It was surprisingly difficult as the corrosive characteristics of salt are not ideal eco-friendly packaging products, however resistant to the usual box with plastic bag insert they have ended up with a box they are all proud of. It is recognisably recyclable for our customers, comes all in one with no extra bags or wrapping and is made from entirely recyclable, sustainably sourced cardboard, with the added bonus of being locally made just up the coast in Irvine, Ayrshire. All of their salt is packaged here, on site, by hand, just metres away from the tower and the panhouse.

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