KYLE JAMIESON - Nauticus, leith
“Purveyors of Scottish produce since 2018”
“Nauticus is a local’s favourite bar, with a higher-end whisky pub atmosphere using Scottish produce wherever we can”.
The power of the local pub can not be denied, pubs have played an important role in communities for hundreds of years. The local establishment is often the beating heart of an area, building friendships, a place for inspiration and contemplation and banishes the pangs of loneliness. In these turbulent times, we are hankering for the warm hug a trip to the local delivers. So when Kyle Jamieson invited us to his bar, Nauticus in Leith we jumped at the chance.
We first met Kyle at our Edinburgh store opening, an incredibly proud Scot, who champions brilliant Scottish produce. His chat is infectious and tales of the bar and his heritage ensured we wanted to find out more. Kyle and his business partners opened Nauticus to champion Leith’s industrial heritage as one of Scotland’s busiest shipping ports. Their drinks menu celebrates the Scottish produce that was once shipped all around the world from Leith, championing “the smaller” local producers. It’s quite a voyage through Leith’s raw, working background to the buzzy creative hub it is today and an evening at Nauticus takes you on this exciting journey. They offer an array of local whiskies and cocktails expertly curated and blended with the spices and produce famed by the town’s history.
“Since we opened, I’ve wanted to create the right vibe among the people working in the bar who can take care of the locals coming in”.
Nauticus opened in 2018 in Leith, the northerly industrial neighbour of Edinburgh. Along with business partners Iain Mcpherson and Sam Chapman (who also own Panda & Son’s and Hoot The Redeemer), it was Kyle’s dream to create a friendly “locals favourite bar in town”. Nauticus, offers a refined cocktails and artisan drinks menu within a really comfortable pub atmosphere. This really does feel like the “place where everybody knows your name!” There are nods to the areas heritage all around the interior and a warm glow exudes from the bar. The building itself has a strong connection with Leith’s fascinating history as Scotland’s main trading port. Huge tall ships once sailed in and out of the Leith’s Ocean Terminal, heading for Holland, Scandinavia and beyond brimming with goods such as wool, wine, raw materials, spices and later Whisky. The Royal Yacht Britannia made her final stop at Leith in 1920, and Irvine Welsh’s cult film reimagining of Trainspotting was filmed right here. It cast a light on the town’s dark side before regeneration, all part of its rich tapestry making it the cultural melting pot it is today.
“Leith is a small neighbourhood, it’s always been pretty edgy, pretty dodgy if I’m honest, but it’s full of characters and great people”.
Leith has seen a big regeneration over the last decade due to the artists and creatives migrating here from Edinburgh. Like many cities, rising rents and property prices drive people and business to find the hidden gems that are so frequently forgotten. Connected to the city centre of Edinburgh by the pub-lined Leith Walk the once industrial buildings of the city’s trading port have been given a new lease of life. Many of these buildings now house the town’s innovative and varied restaurants celebrating local seafood, seasonal produce and contemporary cuisine. The Biscuit Factory, built in 1947 by Crawfords Biscuits, is home to 32 creative businesses who together make a big contribution to the independent arts culture in Leith. Businesses such as Woven Whisky, who supply Nauticus, Hemp Eyewear and Michelle Mangan Communications and PR are all located here. The Biscuit Factory also has a cool space to hire for private parties, events and weddings. Then there’s the inventive bars such as Nauticus drawing in locals and people further afield, keeping the docks buzzing every night of the week.
“In the past five years since we opened up, cafes, amazing restaurants, wine bars, bakeries breweries like Pilot, distilleries like Woven whisky have opened up, it’s just a cool place”.
As we chatted to Kyle about his own heritage it became clear he was born to be in this environment, he admits he wasn’t really into school when he was young but grew up surrounded by the bar and pub culture. His mum was a chef and his sister a bar manager, so from 18 he worked in the local’s bar near to Leith. Kyles family history is very much steeped in tough, traditional sea-faring ways. His father’s family are from Shetland and the Outer Hebrides, in his own words “proper stern Island Men”. His uncle Hamish worked on boats all his life, and now still lives on Lewis. His Dad travelled from Shetland to the mainland when he was 10 and then travelled all around the world. Kyle inherited this love for travel, and had a stint in Melbourne to hone his hospitality skills. The grounding he got ‘down under’ put him in good stead for the future. When he moved back to Leith he had a fortuitous meeting with his now business partner Iain Mcpherson. Iain is a guy with a great reputation locally in the hospitality world and has opened some very successful bars in Edinburgh. His keen eye for talent told him to invest in Kyle’s idea, and they opened Nauticus.
The building that Nauticus now calls home was a whisky merchant in the port of Leith. When they acquired the building, they spent many months restoring it to its former glory as an independent spirit merchant once more, championing the best Scotland has to offer. They unearthed original features, wood panelling, cornicing and flooring and infused it with nautical references such as the fish-scale tiles on the bar and the old life-ring on the wall. Interesting and historical artifacts from Leith’s rich trading history line the walls. There’s so much to look at and read; old whisky and Leith golf course posters, models of tall-ships and reclaimed ships lighting. There’s also a meaningful nod to the founder’s families through the antiques that adorn the walls. The original wooden shelving, including a library of books from Kyle’s mum’s house, Harris Tweed bar stools and nautical ephemera all tell a story. As a proud reminder of where it all began there are three mirrors in the bar painted with the three owners’ family names, a homage to bar signs and the wonderful art of sign writing. The welcoming atmosphere they’ve created has built their local community, and they make sure to look after their regulars.
“We’re all really good friends hanging out together outside of work, it makes it a better environment in the bar”.
The drinks menu is styled in a similar immersive way to the bar itself. Each chapter of the menu transports you to a period of time in Leith’s rich history; from the tea and spice trade to the gin years, sherry routes and of course the key role Leith played in the whisky boom. Chapter 1 celebrates the Spice Routes out of Leith, the sugar, dried fruits and varied herbs and spices (or black gold as they were thought of). Chapter 2, The Gin Era, takes a look into Leith and Edinburgh’s love of Gin. As you can imagine Leith was the ideal place to distil gin due to all the exotic botanicals and spices coming through the port each day. It’s then forward into the Wine Trading’s chapter and finishing with Chapter 4, The Whisky Boom with the classic House Whisky Mac.
PORT OF JOY
“We like the smaller guys, the ones doing the cooler more artisanal products, it’s more interesting to work with the lesser-known local brands”.
We couldn’t leave this hallowed place without asking Kyle to create an Aubin cocktail. He kindly accepted the challenge! Named the Port of Joy, it is a celebration of the Port of Leith using the brilliant Scottish produce Kyle champions so much.
It was very hard to leave this local, we’d only been there a few hours but the welcome was unrivalled. We met a great group of pals that all shared the same ideology. With no pretensions or agenda, it’s always important to cherish the local and celebrate that together with your friends.
So, if you find yourself up in Edinburgh one day soon don’t leave without making a visit to Leith and stop by Nauticus to soak up the atmosphere. You’d be missing out on something special and unique if you do. We look forward to seeing where Kyle’s travels take him next.
Take a look on social @nauticusbar to find out more.