From Tractors to Tuns

After introducing our guest manager Shona Macleod last month, we thought it was about time you met another vital member of our team, the man charged with handling the many and varied challenges involved in the production of our island spirit.

Kenny Maclean was born and raised in Strond, a small village overlooking Pabbay, Ensay and Killegray in the Sound Of Harris. Of good crofting stock, his family goes back ten generations here, working and living off the land in this beautiful part of the world. As a typical Harris boy, Kenny did his fair share on the family croft and more often than not could be found tinkering and repairing old Massey Ferguson tractors to help keep them in good working order.

This practical knack at a young age served him well, as future career paths took him far from home, working as an engineer for companies like British Telecom, Kodak and Cisco before the responsibilities of the old family croft, slowly falling into disrepair, began to weigh heavily on him and prompted a return to his home village once more.

When news of the distillery plans reached him three years ago, Kenny saw an opportunity to set his shoulder to a new wheel. His love of technology, problem solving and logistics meant that the role of Production Manager was one he knew he would relish and, concurring with the words of his wee boy that “daddy is a fixer!”, we knew we’d found the perfect person to ensure the smooth running of our hands-on activities.

On a day-to-day basis Kenny will be responsible for everything on the spirit-making side of our business. From bringing in the raw materials of malted barley and yeast to managing the milling and mash tun operations, overseeing the distilling processes, right through to the final casking and bottling, all will be in the capable hands of Kenny and his staff of like-minded local men.

When asked about how the spirit he’ll be looking after will relate to the island, he, like so many of his fellow Hearachs when posed a question, pauses and ponders a little before answering.

“Well, there’s the water of course, it’s very soft. And then there’s the sea air and our stable climate. But I think it’s our attitude to time that will matter most…”

When pushed to expand on his thoughts he reveals…

“Hearachs have grown up in a very self-sufficient culture, we have a patient background, we realise important things take time. We know we can’t rush the seasons and have always been more dictated by natural rhythms than by the stopwatch. There’s a great appreciation of this idea I think and so what gets done in the distillery will not be rushed, we’d rather do it right.”

We’re fortunate to be able to draw on people like Kenny to help make our dram. Highly skilled, experienced in life from croft to big companies, and with a passion, tempered by patience, for what we are setting out to do. The fact he also enjoys good whisky himself does no harm either! Already a confirmed lover of Speyside styles of malt, he’s now exploring more island influences, delving deeper into the realms of peat appreciation as part of his remit, a task he does not appear in the slightest bit averse to...

Meantime however, he heads once again for Strond to look after his land and livestock, his spare time filled as plentifully as with his role here at the distillery. And as we say our goodbyes, it’s clear that the wee Harris boy who grew up fixing old tractors is looking forward to keeping some rather more complicated machinations working just as perfectly as they did all those years ago.


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