The company was founded in 1888, in the historic Royal Borough of Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, by Peter Barr to produce the traditional West of Scotland fish products – 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 firm switched the focus of its production to smoked salmon – although it still smokes kippers and trout – as it was taken over by the Ritchie family.
Following the retirement of the Ritchie brothers in the company was bought by the late Marquess of Bute as part of a group of companies that collectively celebrate the island’s traditions and heritage. Throughout an extensive programme of refurbishment in January 2014 the smokehouse has become a state of the art food processing facility, but firmly centred on the original Barr kiln, possibly the oldest and longest continuous production fish smoking kiln is Scotland. In 2022, Ritchie's of Rothesay re-branded to Isle of Bute Smokehouse. As the island is such an important part of the heritage of the business, it now carries the Bute name as well.
We want to create the most magnificent flavourings that our customers love and come back for more. Therefore, we choose to use a cold smoking process to flavour and preserve the finest fish and other foods we source, in a particularly diligent way. We treat the food by exposing it to the smoke from burning or smouldering plant materials, in Ritchie’s case the wood shavings and sawdust from oak whiskey casks. The aroma in the smoker is already delicious!
Bute Smokehouse fish are very carefully brined or dry cured. Brining is the process of soaking fish in a salty water
bath, whilst dry curing involves placing the fish in a sea salt and sugar mix for 48 hours to draw excess moisture from the flesh. Both methods use Bute Smokehouse's wonderful secret recipes with surprising additional ingredients that create amazing taste sensations handed down from each generation of master smoker.
After brining or dry curing these specially selected and thoroughly inspected fish are hung on oak beamed racks to dry and are then carefully moved to the ancient kiln for smoking. The fire is then prepared in a time honoured way, 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 materials to give significantly better flavour from cooler, more intense smoke.
I bought a pack of smoked salmon at the suggestion of the staff at Brodie Countryfare, I have been back to buy more. This really is a new dimension to smoked fish.
Opening the packaging you are greeted by a lovely smoky smell and the experience just gets better.
Mr Ferguson, Horsham
We have been dealing with Ritchie’s for a number of years; one of its attractions is the product’s provenance, coupled with real passion and innovation.
Shaun Squire, Oban
Manor House Hotel & Restaurant
We are consistently pleased with the quality and services from Ritchie’s and their willingness to try
Peter Carr, Swinton
The only difficulty in dealing with Ritchie’s is that each time they bring us something new to try, we find
ourselves having to come up with new ideas and space
on our menu!
Paul Gunning, Edinburgh