A Year in Harris
Posted on: 23rd September, 2016
It’s hard to believe but this weekend marks the first anniversary of the Isle of Harris Distillery's official opening. One year on from unlocking our doors we have lots to be thankful for and even more to look forward to. We’ll be celebrating on Saturday afternoon with a G&T(ea) party for family, friends and local folk but before we do we thought we’d take a wee look back at the first 365 days of distillery life…
We started life as we meant to go on, opening our doors to all with a fantastic ceilidh in our empty (at the time) warehouse. It felt like most of the island had turned up to dance the night away to the sounds of Skippinish and drink to the future with our first batch of Isle of Harris Gin which flowed freely until the wee, small hours.
Our gin was to keep flowing as we brought this new island spirit to a world which was quick to embrace the beautiful bottle and its delicious contents. Word of its quality seem to spread like wildfire and it wasn't long until orders were flooding in from far and wide. Our distillery shop shelves were constantly being restocked and our local couriers collected boxed bottles daily to ship to eager customers far from our Harris shores.
The physical bottles themselves became objects on desire, winning the hearts of all who held them while also winning all manner of awards across the design and drinks industry communities. As we embraced social media more deeply we were delighted to witness customers sharing photographs and their own stories surrounding our gin, with images and accolades from New York to Sydney, Japan to Jamaica, arriving each day on our Facebook and Twitter doorsteps.
We also set to work on our whisky spirit, the distillers beginning to master the ‘dancing stills’ of Eva and her partner. Working closely with our consultant experts we carefully optimised our spirit before finally committing it to the ex-bourbon barrels we’d sourced from Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky, one of the oldest distilleries in the USA. The first casks to be filled were the 200 private casks bought by those placing first faith in our work and we were proud to stencil their names on each one to be racked in our on-site warehouse.
As the year progressed we watched our friends and supporters grow while our own team here in Tarbert grew too. From the original Tarbert Ten we expanded our family of employees which stood at 25 this summer, a figure we are very proud to have achieved in our first year. Month after month these connections continued to increase with visitors travelling to visit us from far and wide, people like Serge from Corsica on his Harley and Gisa from Amsterdam by boat and bus.
The ripples which emanate from the small village in which we built our future continue to expand as we bring our story and spirit to places much further afield. We have been embraced in cosmopolitan Glasgow and will continue to journey onwards through the UK and beyond with help from ambassadors like Yvonne Murray. As we work each day to make the best spirit we can, we’ll keep exploring these new connections and collaborations, always learning and never standing still.
Meantime, we get ready to raise a glass or two in the company of those who can join us tomorrow afternoon for an anniversary G&T(ea) party. We’ll celebrate in a sea of gins from across the world, knowing that we now play our own important role in this exciting industry. We also celebrate the new arrival of Billy and Sandy’s (our distiller and guest host) new baby boy Toby. With the gin drought over we now have plenty with which to wet the baby’s head, so here’s to birthdays, a new generation of Hearachs and growing up in the heart of Harris, our island home!