Young distiller on how island spirit has given locals a 'rare' opportunity

Young distiller on how island spirit has given locals a 'rare' opportunity <i>(Image: supplied)</i>
Young distiller on how island spirit has given locals a 'rare' opportunity (Image: supplied)

This week is perhaps one of the most significant in the entire history of the small island distillery which has won over gin drinkers worldwide with its signature sugar kelp-infused spirit.

Eight years after it was first opened in the village of Tarbert, the Isle of Harris Distillery will tomorrow launch its long-awaited single malt.

While a seafront HQ served as inspiration for their inaugural gin, The Hearach instead looks to the land with Hebridean machair, moors and crofts in mind.

From the dark and fragrant peat used to malt their Scottish barley to water sourced from Abhainn Cnoc a’ Charrain, the whisky promises to be a true celebration of its island home, with each last drop distilled by local workers.

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The Herald:

Whisky ‘flavour guru’ Dr Gordon Steele, said of the process: “Our mission for The Hearach was to create a dram of balanced complexity and character, one which would reflect the people and the place.

“We harness the contribution of the Harris elements to this end with the human touch of our local distillers providing the final defining part.”

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One of these locals is Rebekah Morrison from Bowglass, who first joined the team as a cafeteria worker aged just seventeen before going on to apply for a distilling apprenticeship.

She said: “Being so close to launching the Hearach feels very surreal.

“In the five years that I’ve been here the whisky has always been something that was spoken about, but we couldn’t quite visualise because it seemed so far away.

“Seeing it in the bottles and knowing that it’s going to be going out this week is hugely exciting.”

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Now an integral part of the team, Rebeka vividly remembers discovering the advert for her apprenticeship and has said she applied knowing that she would forever regret not taking the chance.

To her surprise, she was accepted and set about learning the craft of producing a unique gin which was proudly Hebridean.

She said: “The initial training was daunting, to say the least, but looking back now it was such a brilliant experience to have.

“There was some learning online but most of it was on the job.

“I’m so thankful that I went down the route of an apprenticeship because you’re able to actually see and get involved in the process all the way up to the finished product.

“I was so nervous on the first day but just from working as part of a team, my confidence grew hugely.

“The people really made it.”

Aside from offering a promising career path, a job at the Harris Distillery means that Rebekah can plan ahead for a future in Harris, something which she had previously struggled to imagine as possible.

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“It’s very rare to find a job like this on the island,” she explained.

“I always assumed I’d have to move away to find a career that I was passionate about.

“The distillery has given close to 50 jobs to people who might otherwise have left Harris.

“Being able to offer locals that sense of security is so important.”

Ahead of its wider release, the Hearach launch will be celebrated tonight with a traditional island ceilidh that promises to be even bigger than the night in honour of their first Harris Gin.

As her friends, family and colleagues prepare to gather to celebrate a historic moment that has been years in the making, Rebekah said: “It’s such a brilliant company and job to be in that I can’t see myself ever wanting to move on.

“The sense of community on the island is unlike anywhere else and it makes working there really special.

“It sounds cheesy, but it’s true.”

The Hearach Single Malt will be available online from tomorrow, September 23 and priced at £65 RRP.

For more information visit the Isle of Harris Distillery website here.