I had a smashing chat with Rachel MacDonald, the brand ambassador for Isle of Harris Gin and discovered a fascinating story and a very delicious gin.
Rachel was making a flying visit to Liverpool (where I live) and when she asked if I’d like to meet for a chat about the gin, well, it was just the tonic I needed.
The gin’s heart and soul lies on the island of Harris on the west coast of Scotland in the Outer Hebrides.
The People’s Gin
The Isle of Harris Distillery, or the Social Distillery as it is referred to, was the vision of Anderson ‘Burr’ Bakewell, who had visited the island for many years.
The Isle of Harris is home to less than 2,000 people. During the 1950s there were over 4,000 people living in the community.
Rachel told me that Burr’s purpose was to create year-round jobs, to try and halt the population decline in the Outer Hebrides.
That’s just fabulous.
The distillery opened in October 2015, in the small harbour village of Tarbert. Five local distillers and two young apprentice distillers make a single malt whisky (still to be released) and the gin.
Alongside them, 30 full time staff help create the spirits and welcome visitors from all over the world.
The Isle of Harris Gin botanicals
A local diver harvests sugar kelp which is found in the sea around the island. The kelp is steeped with botanicals for 24 hours and is removed before the distilling begins.
The botanicals are juniper, coriander, angelica root, orris root, cubebs, bitter orange peel, liquorice and cassia bark.
The kelp leaves subtle coastal notes and creates a fresh, delicious gin. It’s as if the winds and the coastal air from Scotland’s coast are washing over me.
This is a gin with people at its heart
The islanders keep control of the business by sending every bought bottle directly from the island.
This means that if you buy one, there might be a delivery delay if the island weather disrupts the ferry!
The Isle of Harris Gin bottle design
Rachel explained that the ripples across the bottle reflect the beaches on the island. There’s even a “dip” on the side as if the sand has been flattened and untouched by the retreating sea.
Buy the gin ( (RRP £37) via click and collect outlets across England, Scotland and Wales. You can find details at their website, harrisdistillery.com