Feature: Blackthorn Salt

We celebrate the best of Scotland at John Gilmour Butchers – so when we were on the hunt for an exceptional salt to pair with our meats, we knew we needed to find something local.

This is where Blackthorn Salt comes in. An incredible business on the West Coast of Scotland, mixing tradition and innovation to produce the finest salt available. We wanted to tell you a little bit more about Blackthorn in this blog – as we believe the world should know all about this exceptional business.

About Blackthorn Salt – Master Salter Gregorie and Malky, Blackthorn Salter

Blackthorn Master Salter Gregorie has lived and breathed salt since day 1 as his family has been involved in all things salt for 5 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. They soon became the UK specialists in all things salt. A helpful background for Gregorie when finally, in 2019, he was able to realise his long-held dream to reignite Scottish salt-making on the Ayrshire coast and Blackthorn Salt was born.

It was not a simple journey though, Gregorie came across the impressive graduation towers in Poland and Germany back in 2007. Although those thorn towers haven’t produced any food salt for over 50 years, Gregorie was inspired by the practicality, naturalness and beauty of the process.

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 had finally come home.

Malky, Blackthorn Salter: Born and raised on the Ayrshire coast, where his family have lived for generations, Malky cannot remember a day without the sea, the background to daily life.
’Creating salt from that body of water is something truly special; my ancestors were probably involved with the pans on this coast’.

Malky apprenticed with Gregorie straight after school and has been immersed in his own salt-learning and making journey ever since.

In daily charge of the thorn tower, Malky 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 Salt

At Blackthorn, we understand that Salt is the single most transformative ingredient of all time. Clean and unrefined, the taste of our 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.

The crucial crystal crunch factor is a given - we always encourage ‘by hand’ sprinkling if only to experience this satisfaction, but also to ensure the exact distribution and grain size that you desire on each occasion. 

At Blackthorn, we use 100% west coast sea water and nothing else. There are no illusions: no adding, no seeding, no bleaching, just pure Scottish sea salt. When you taste Blackthorn Salt you taste nature – the sea, the winds and the thorns.

The Process 

Sea water is dribbled through 54 wooden taps and a series of channels which are checked and adjusted daily according to the weather 

The sea water seeps along every twig and thorn, maximising exposure to our 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 final stage is all skill and alchemy: we take the now exceptionally salty brine, add our Salters and their intricate knowledge of our salt, some gentle heat and nothing else... at all.

It took years to perfect our unique method of harnessing the wind and sea to ensure we create a better salt, a ‘salt of the world’ as well as ‘for the world’ and one that we are proud of.

All of the above excerpts and images from the Blackthorn Salt website https://www.blackthornsalt.co.uk/