We have been on numerous distillery tours over the last few years. I love whisky and I love the opportunity to find out more about how each distiller crafts their whisky (and of course its nice to have a wee dram too) However this tour was unlike any we have been on before. I can honestly say it was the best (though I feel the need to apologise to my home country and Bushmills Distillery which is very good too!)
What made this tour stand out from the rest was the story and how every aspect of the distillery, from the fabric of the building, the people that work there and the whisky and gin they are producing brims with pride for the Island and really shows the uniqueness of Harris as a community island.
In fact, the distillery refers to itself as a social distillery and that is exactly what it is. The distillery was built by the people of Harris for the people of Harris and that is what will make it successful. In fact one of the builders involved in building the distillery is now a distiller. The ethos of this place is to train and grow local people to become experts rather than bring people from outside. Photos of those that work in the distillery adorn the walls showing them at work and in their daily lives.
Unlike other tours we began in the tasting room, a wonderful room reflecting a whisky cask. The Harris tweed abacus was used to explain the flavour notes of the Whisky they are producing called Heurach. They are aiming to bottle at 4 years but will only bottle when it is ready. It was also explained that they are planning a full voice and softly spoken whisky. (the names again being a reminder about the connection to the island)
From the tasting room we then had the opportunity to learn more about the flavours of the whisky and gin up in the gallery and then a chance to look at the stills and the warehouse. The interesting thing about the Isle of Harris gin is the addition of sugar kelp to the botanicals, giving it a unique (and really lovely flavour) There is only hint of the sugar kelp but the distillery also sells sugar kelp water that you can then add to your gin if you want more of the flavour.
After the tour we went into the ‘canteen’ for lunch. A fantastic little place where even in here the island is reflected in the oak tables and metal legs in the shape of an H. The canteen has a simple menu of soups, cakes and scones. Today’s choice was Broccoli, cheddar and basil soup and Haddock Chowder. We had one of each and they were really delicious