Drinks Cabi­net

Sunday Herald Life - - DRINK - Andy Gem­mell’s

Isle of Har­ris Dis­tillery Tar­bert, Isle of Har­ris

His­tory: In 1960, an Amer­i­can gen­tle­men named An­der­son Bakewell vis­ited Har­ris and in­stantly fell in love with the is­land and its peo­ple. Over the next 50 years An­der­son es­tab­lished him­self as a renowned mu­si­col­o­gist (an ex­pert in mu­sic) be­fore hav­ing his vi­sion of open­ing a dis­tillery on Har­ris, which he started to plan back in 2007. This was not about mak­ing whisky and gin for him, it was about bring­ing jobs and tourism to the is­land.

Along with some fund­ing and a group of in­vestors they man­aged to raise £10 mil­lion to make the vi­sion a re­al­ity. Build­ing started on the head of the har­bour in East Loch Tar­bert, vis­i­ble to ev­ery­one ar­riv­ing there by land or sea and in Septem­ber

2015 the first dis­tillery in Har­ris was opened.

The prod­uct: Whisky doesn’t take a long time to make but it does take a long time to age. While they are wait­ing for their whisky to age they de­cided to cre­ate Isle of Har­ris Gin. The botan­i­cals are what give gin its flavour and aroma. Har­ris’s are made up of some clas­sic botan­i­cals but sugar kelp – which is hand-har­vested by a lo­cal diver from the deep un­der­wa­ter forests of the Outer He­brides – is their key botan­i­cal.

Geek alert: Ev­ery­one I speak to is mad about the Isle of Har­ris gin bot­tle and I can un­der­stand why … it is beau­ti­ful. The de­mand saw the dis­tillery ac­tu­ally run out of bot­tles last year, re­sult­ing in “the great Har­ris gin drought of 2016”. This saw the com­pany ask cus­tomers to send back their bot­tles to be re­filled and sent back to them. The bot­tled was de­signed by Stranger & Stranger, a de­sign agency who have de­signed some of the spirit world’s most iconic bot­tles. It has since won three im­por­tant de­sign awards – The Drinks Busi­ness: Best De­sign in Pack­ag­ing and Spir­its Award, The Dieline Awards 2016 where the de­sign took first place in spir­its and The In­ter­na­tional Spir­its Chal­lenge where the Isle of Har­ris Gin bot­tle won De­sign & Pack­ag­ing New In­di­vid­ual Prod­uct and was crowned De­sign and Pack­ag­ing Supreme Cham­pion for 2016. Why visit? This is a rugged yet stun­ning part of Scot­land. There are only around 2000 peo­ple liv­ing on the is­land and the dis­tillery em­ploys about 20 peo­ple. Isle of Har­ris calls it­self a “so­cial dis­tillery”, with ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble, in­clud­ing bot­tling and mat­u­ra­tion, done on the is­land to max­imise em­ploy­ment and of course bring tourists to the is­land. Yes, it is a long way to come but if ever there was a good rea­son to come

and visit a dis­tillery then this is the one.

Win­ter 2017 Tours are avail­able on Tues­days, Wed­nes­days and Fri­days at 10am and 12 noon with more days added in the sum­mer months. The can­teen and shop are open ev­ery day ex­cept Sun­day.

In­ter­est­ing fact: Bakewell ad­mit­tedly doesn’t know a lot about gin or whisky so he made sure that he gath­ered a team with ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge so that the prod­ucts would be world-class and some­thing for the is­land to be proud of. The board con­sists of in­dus­try leg­ends such as ex-Glen­morangie di­rec­tor Si­mon Er­langer, for­mer Whyte & Mackay CFO Ron MacEachran, and for­mer Ma­callan man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Wil­lie Phillips. Fol­low me on Twit­ter @andy­drink or on Face­book

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