Always Learning

From the outset, the Isle of Harris Distillery has been about more than producing whisky, it has been about people. As the copper stills were being constructed we looked to our local community for the right people to undertake the task of creating the first Harris spirit. It would have been easy to import more experienced whisky-making hands from further afield but it was important to us to begin our journey right here on the island.
 
We found four local men who had not distilled a drop of spirit in their lives but had intelligence, enthusiasm and pride in their island in abundance. They also brought with them an array of skills, of engineering and craft, attention to detail and technical acumen. We have trained Kenny, Donnie, Billy and Domhnall from scratch under the watchful eyes of our expert consultants, and each has risen to the challenge.
 
It has been no small feat, there have been many long hours, and no doubt a few sleepless nights, in their pursuit of mastery of the still. Over the last year they’ve developed new skills and strengthened their knowledge, both in theory and practice, and last week the spirit production was placed fully in their own safe hands, these island men, making legal island whisky, for the first time here in Harris.
 
For those with a fetish for figures, the new distillers are now producing 5 mashes, 5 Wash Still distillations and 5 Spirit Still distillations in their working week. From this work comes 2,400 OLA (Original Litres of Alcohol) which is then reduced to a strength of 63.5%, enough spirit to fill approximately 20 casks at 190 litres per cask. They used 6 tonnes of malted barley, 30 kg of yeast and some 30,000 litres of clear, fresh Harris water to produce the final result.
 

Production Manager Kenny Maclean tells us...
 

“There has been a lot of hard work in the last 6 weeks, a really massive effort from the production team to get to this situation. They have come into their own working unaided over the last few days. I think we’re all re-energised now that we can see our working week develop into a sustainable regime after the previous months where 12 hour days were the norm. Now it is time for us to optimise spirit production, we’re still fine tuning the process in terms of how we do things. This is the next phase…concentrate on quality”.

 
As we seek to produce the very best dram the island can offer we’ll still have the help of people like Kenny Gray, Alison Mackinnon and Gordon Steele on hand to guide and advise us, their years of experience providing a valuable resource for our production team. As a young distillery with many decades of whisky making to come, we’re open and honest in saying we will always be learning.
 
The foundations of our enterprise here in Harris have now been laid on the most solid of ground. As Kenny, Donnie, Billy and Domhnall grow to become masters of their craft we look forward to watching them pass on their knowledge to next generation of Hearachs, perhaps even their own sons and daughters. But for now, we are pleased to have witnessed a small piece of history and offer our congratulations to all who have worked so hard to get this far.

 

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