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Craft Heritage

Our History

Barr & Sons, Ritchie Brothers, Bute Family

The original Smokehouse was founded in 1888 on the Isle of Bute, by Peter Barr to produce the traditional Scottish West coast kippers. Barr’s kippers were sent all over the world and were believed to be Queen Victoria’s choice when in residence at Balmoral. In the 1960s, the company was taken over by the Ritchie’s brothers and switched the production focus to smoked salmon – although they still smoked kippers and trout.

Following the retirement of the Ritchie brothers, the company was bought by the late Marquess of Bute. After an extensive refurbishment in January 2014 the smokehouse has become a state of the art food processing facility. While keeping its heritage as it is built around the original Barr kiln. Keeping the kiln in its original form has been core to our business model. Keeping us a small, artisanal, Scottish business.

Our Rebrand

In 2021, with the passing of Johnny Bute, three of his family stepped up to bring Ritchie’s of Rothesay forward into a new business model. Samantha Embury, Georgia Fenwick-Gomez, and Cathleen Crichton-Stuart. In 2022, Ritchie's of Rothesay was rebranded to Isle of Bute Smokehouse. As a nod to the island which is an integral part of the brand's heritage. Under new leadership and with a new name, we hope to make our brand stand out for what it is, a product steeped in quality and provenance.

Who are we?

Bute Smokehouse is now an entirely woman owned and led business.

Sales and Marketing Manager

Cathleen Crichton-Stuart

2021 saw the return of Sales and Marketing manager, Cathleen Crichton-Stuart, from Australia. Cathleen originally stepped into this role in 2012 when her father, Johnny Bute, bought the business from the Ritchie’s brothers. After 13 years in Australia, completing a degree in Nutrition and Food Science, and 2 years in New Zealand, Cathleen is back heading the sales and marketing side of the business.

Operations Manager

Lorna Duncan

2021 also saw the promotion of long term team member, Lorna Duncan, to Operations Manager. Lorna has been a core part of the Bute Smokehouse team for 10 years. Lorna knows the business inside and out, ensuring smooth sailing of the day to day, and supporting our team on the ground.

Production Team

Alister and Alan

Our head smoker Alister McFarlane, has been on board for 10 years, an avid salmon fisherman, who worked in the fish farm industry before successfully switching careers to become a master smoker and slicer. We wouldn’t have a business without Alister, who learned directly from the Ritchie brothers. 

Alan Kane came on board in 2020 in our fishmongers, but has since moved into curing, smoking and slicing with Alister. Alan is on track to become a master smoker alongside Alister, as well as ensuring orders reach our customers each week. Alan is one of our wonderful multi taskers, working across the smokehouse, deliveries and retail.

Accounts and Sales team


Yvonne works as a support to Lorna, on accounts, you'll find her in our new container working diligently on our account customers. We are currently welcoming new staff to the Smokehouse sales team.

Our Process

To create the subtle smoke that our customers love and come back for, we choose to use cold smoking, which flavours and preserves the fish and other foods we source. The salmon or trout, is slowly smoked over wood shavings and sawdust from oak whiskey casks. This process has been on-going for over 100 years in our purpose built kiln.

Before smoking, Bute Smokehouse fish are carefully dry cured. Dry curing involves placing the fish in a sea salt and sugar mix for 48 hours to draw excess moisture from the flesh. This method uses Bute Smokehouse's secret recipe. The surprising additional ingredient, creates a more complex flavour profile. The method, handed down from previous generations, show cases 100+ years of smoking expertise on the Isle of Bute.

After dry curing, the specially selected fish are hung on racks to dry and then carefully moved to the original kiln for smoking. The fire is then prepared, lit to a gentle smoulder providing very little heat but plenty of flavoursome smoke. To achieve this effect, Bute Smokehouse don’t use oak chips but finer oak dust, to give significantly better flavour from cooler, more intense smoke.

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