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The Croft Distillery
Posted on: 4th August, 2017
Across the islands of the Outer Hebrides, a particular kind of farming takes place, a low-impact way of life with a long history.
It’s called ‘crofting’, and the men and women who undertake this traditional form of small-holding are known as crofters. Local people raise livestock and grow crops on narrow strips and a handful of acres, working their land in much the same way as their ancestors have done for generations.
The land, particularly here in Harris, can be challenging, with shallow and acidic soils, a harsh climate, and a rocky terrain, which makes everyday agriculture practices difficult. But crofters love to persevere, doing what they can with what they’ve got, helping to bind our communities together through the work they do and share.
Many Harris crofters keep flocks of the hardy Blackface sheep, perfectly suited for our island climate and happy to live a spartan life across rugged hills and moor. Others keep bigger beasts, like crofter Andy Bart who keeps a herd of beautiful Belted Galloways by the lusher shores of Luskentyre.
For animals like these to thrive, when the land struggles to provide, supplementary feed is often required.
Luckily our local crofters have a good source of something nutritious and vitamin-packed to give to their livestock, with our compliments. It’s called ‘draff’ and it’s a natural by-product of our whisky making process. After the wort has been drained from our mash tun, we’re left with a moist, fragrant, protein-rich batch of spent grain.
It’s delicious stuff and local livestock love it, so we transfer what we have into a dedicated trailer outside the Spirit Hall, filling it five times, on average, each week. This trailer can then be taken away by local crofters, who collaborate with each other to make sure everyone who wants some for their animals gets their fair share.
With commercial feed prices on the rise, this free form of sustenance is very welcome, helping us to recycle our natural wastage and support a vital way of island life at the same time.
With ‘craft distilling’ becoming an over-used term, we are proud to be croft distillers instead!
Main Image © Andy Bart, Luskentyre Herd.