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!