A place by the sea

The Clisham and a digger

While the new distillery in Tarbert remains the beating heart of our whisky making plans, we’ll also be drawing inspiration and influences from all over the beautiful isle of Harris. One such example of this ‘deconstructed’ approach to our dram comes with the breaking of new ground on a north-west facing peninsula just a few miles away, near the small village of Ardhasaig. A small piece of land here has been purchased from a good friend of the project, a local crofter by the name of Roddy MacAskill, providing us with the perfect place for our spirit to slowly mature.

Here, on the shores of Loch Bunabhainneadar a warehouse, designed to house over 4000 filled oak casks, will be home to our island spirit for many decades to come. It feels like a special place already, watched over protectively by the high hills of the Clisham range, fishing boats tugging on their moorings nearby, while just across the water lie the ruins of an old 19th century whaling station. The remains of old blackhouses border the site and scattered flocks of native Blackface sheep graze lazily on the crofts surrounding the workmen as they set to their task. 

There are a myriad of factors which will influence our whisky but perhaps the most imperceptible will be the time spent locked within the staves of our casks here. Over time an almost magical transformation will take place, as wood interacts with spirit and both begin an intimate exchange with this most natural of island environments. The crisp, salt-tang of the Atlantic, the freshest of moorland winds, the cool humidity of the temperate Harris climate, all will play a decisive part in shaping what eventually emerges from our casks. And just as the angels take their inevitable share, we’d like to think that something of the island, unique and as yet unknown, will be given back in return. 

Our consultant Dr Jim Swan, chemist and ‘whisky guru’, believes the steady hand of Harris will be turned to great things and Roddy himself, whose land we now build upon, agrees, so much so he’s invested in a cask of his own. But both will require a little patience before their curiosity is satisfied. Seasons will come and go at these warehouses by the shores of Ardhasaig, as will time and tide. It will be some years before we know how much our island will care to share of its wonderful elements but such things are not to be rushed. Like much of island life, urgency is not always of the essence and the best things, as always, will surely come to those who wait.

 

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