The first gin to be made in the Western Isles will have an unusual ingredient - seaweed.
Scotland's first gin from the Western Isles has arrived! And the magic ingredient is sugar kelp - hand-dived from the seas around the new Isle of Harris Distillery.
Sugar kelp - common in Japanese cooking - is hand-dived from the seas around the distillery in Tarbert and infused into the spirit. A botanist chose seaweed over island plants such as heather and bog myrtle.
“We dry the kelp, it is only used in minute quantities, it is very powerful”, said Simon Erlanger, managing director of the distillery.
The recipe is a lot more than sugar kelp, but that is the local ingredient. It’s made with nine different botanicals – including juniper, coriander, and cassia bark.
He continued: “The only way to harvest sugar kelp is to hand dive for it – we can only take it in a small quantity. Sugar kelp is a true Hebridean seaweed found in underwater forests all around the island.”
As expected for a seaweed, it holds a salty flavour element but crucially, as indicated by the name, it is also sweet due to the presence of a substance called mannitol.
Speaking about what flavour people can expect from the kelp Simon said: “It is dried before and infused in the base spirit. It gives the gin a saltiness and a spiciness as well”.
Then there is the lined glass, glass which appears to sparkle and shine in all the maritime shades of the sea.
Isle of Harris Distillery - A Social Distillery
Isle of Harris Distillers was the brainchild of US-born chairman and founder Anderson Bakewell, who first visited Harris in the 1960s. Bakewell decided he wanted to do something to bolster the economy of the island. He felt there was a tremendous opportunity to create a facility that could produce a unique spirit and had the potential to become a stop on the whisky trail, which brings thousands of visitors to Scotland every year.
The creation of the new distillery, nicknamed The Social Distillery, will produce the equivalent of 300,000 bottles a year of its single malt, The Hearach. Given the number of years required for whisky maturation, the distillery will also produce gin.
With fewer than 2000 people living on the island, long-term employment opportunities are scarce. Once fully operational, the distillery will create 20 vital jobs in the local economy.
The distillery also hopes to further boost the local economy by attracting an increased number of tourists to the island, including those on the whisky trail.