The Social Distillery: For, With And From the People Of Harris
The Isle of Harris is a small island in the Outer Hebrides, off the far north-western coast of Scotland, on the edge of the wild Atlantic Ocean. It is an ancient and elemental place, exposed to wind and waves, with high hills, open moorland, beautiful golden sands and rugged shores. The Isle of Harris Distillery, or the Social Distillery as it is often referred to, was opened in October 2015, in the small harbour village of Tarbert.
The distillery was the vision of Anderson ‘Burr’ Bakewell, a man who has been connected to the island for many years. He wanted to create something that would provide employment for generations to come by sharing this special place with the world. It is both a place and an idea for bringing people together, to share the special spirit of Harris and create a sense of belonging wherever you are from. The Isle of Harris Distillery’s main purpose is to create jobs, support the fragile local economy and address issues surrounding population decline in the Outer Hebrides.
Five local distillers and two young apprentice distillers, trained from scratch in their craft, make a single malt whisky and an Outer Hebridean gin. A team of over 30 full time staff help create the beautiful spirits and welcome visitors from all over the world. The distillery now provides secure employment and gives people a reason to remain in Harris to live and work.
The Hearach Single Malt
The Isle of Harris Distillery is first and foremost a whisky distillery, busy creating a beautiful spirit for an Isle of Harris dram. The historic single malt whisky will be called ‘The Hearach’, the Scottish Gaelic word for someone from Harris. This will be the first legal whisky to be made in the Isle of Harris, maturing in ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso casks at the shore-side warehouse in the nearby village of Ardhasaig.
The whisky will be a malt of distinction: lightly peated, complex, full of character and with great balance. The distillers are also making spirit for a more heavily peated expression of the whisky, using locally cut peat. The Hearach will only be released once it has become its best, a whisky that the community will be truly proud of. Unlike most island distilleries, every drop of spirit is distilled, matured and bottled on Harris ensuring true island provenance.
Isle of Harris Gin
The award-winning Isle of Harris Gin is the distillery’s inaugural spirit, distilled in Tarbert in a small copper gin still, known as ‘The Dottach’. Juniper, Coriander, Angelica Root, Orris Root, Cubebs, Bitter Orange Peel, Liquorice and Cassia Bark all play their role in defining the taste of the gin, but it is Sugar kelp that marks out this spirit.
Sustainably harvested by a local diver from around the seas of the Outer Hebrides, the Sugar kelp creates subtle coastal notes. The distillers discard, instead of recycling, the ‘heads’ and ‘tails’ of the spirit run, leaving only the best of the distillate’s ‘heart’ helping to create an exceptional smoothness.