Glas­gow Let­ter

The Oban Times - - Leisure -

Sir Fran­cis Chich­ester, on be­com­ing the first per­son to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the world sin­gle-hand­edly in a sail­ing boat, was asked to name the qual­ity to which he at­trib­uted his suc­cess. His an­swer? Gin.

And he added that the sad­dest day of his whole ninemonth trip was the day he ran out of his favourite tip­ple.

Ian Smith and Alain Camp­bell, two of my good friends down here in Glas­gow, best known per­haps for their star­ring roles in West Coast band Trail West, have em­barked on their own metaphor­i­cal jour­ney as they launched their lat­est ven­ture: Tyree Gin.

After pre- or­ders sen­sa­tion­ally sold out, the prod­uct was of­fi­cially launched at the week­end at Tiree Mu­sic Fes­ti­val.

Gin, of course, is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some­thing of a Scot­tish re­nais­sance at present – par­tic­u­larly in the He­brides. Since The Botanist burst onto the scene from Is­lay in 2011 and quickly found its place be­hind most bars in the coun­try, there have been pop­u­lar gins emerg­ing from Har­ris, Jura, Skye and Colon­say – which now has two dif­fer­ent gins.

There will also soon be a Barra gin and, thanks to Ian and Alain, of course, Tyree Gin is very much on the hori­zon.

Were Sir Fran­cis Chich­ester alive to­day, he would surely be wish­ing he had cir­cum­nav­i­gated the He­brides rather than the world – as there would cer­tainly have been no fear of his run­ning out of gin,

You may be think­ing that the Is­land of Tiree is more syn­ony­mous with whisky than with gin – and you’d be right. It is said that the is­land was once home to no fewer than 50 dis­tillers.

Tiree Whisky Com­pany Ltd was orig­i­nally formed by Ian and Alain to pre­serve and pro­mote this whisky her­itage, with a view to re- es­tab­lish­ing the con­nec­tion the is­land once had with the Scotch whisky in­dus­try.

The com­pany’s first prod­uct, The Cairns­muir (a lim­ited edi­tion 19-year- old High­land sin­gle malt whisky, named after an iron-screw steamer that ran aground off Hough on Tiree in 1885 while car­ry­ing a 100-ton cargo of spir­its and beer), was such a re­sound­ing suc­cess that the boys were in­spired to pro­duce a bot­tling of gin.

Many may ques­tion why there are sud­denly so many He­bridean gins but, if you ask me, it has been a long time com­ing. Gin has al­ways been a drink suit­able for is­lan­ders. Just ask the Philip­pines. These is­lands ac­count for al­most half the world’s an­nual gin con­sump­tion - go­ing through 25 mil­lion cases of the stuff each year. That is stag­ger­ing – es­pe­cially if drunk all at once.

Jok­ing aside, I know Ian and Alain have used their pro­found knowl­edge and deep un­der­stand­ing of the his­tory and cul­ture of their na­tive is­land to cre­ate a gin of which fel­low is­lan­ders will be very proud. I wish the two of them all the best for this ex­cit­ing ven­ture – and, to all those who ei­ther pre- or­dered or grabbed a bot­tle or two at TMF: slàinte mhath!

ROBERT ROBERT­SON robert.d.robert­son@hot­mail.co.uk

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