May 16, 2017

Isle of Harris Gin

57° 53' N 6° 48' W

By In Cocktails
Bit ashamed to admit that my knowledge of Scottish Islands is a tad vague. I’ve dug peat in a snowstorm on Isla and found some success at clay pigeon shooting on Jura. So I had to look up exactly which island was Harris (Harris is the southern part of the Scottish Hebridean island of Lewis and Harris, the large island with Stornaway as its capital). The Isle of Harris Distillery is one of the UK’s most remote. The first, legal, distillery in Harris, which opened in October 2013. While their first whisky is prepared for release there is a Isle of Harris Gin to sample.

“The distillers set out to capture the elemental and maritime nature of the Isle of Harris and this gin, from bottle to the glass, does just that. A genuine sweet-savoury gin, which is quite rare if not unique.”

A fragile economy and a declining population was the issue Anderson Bakewell, the chairman, sort to address when he first envisaged the distillery. True to its mission, the distillery team are all local residents. A community ‘nosing panel’ meets regularly to check the quality of its spirits and the spent barley is given to island crofters to feed their cattle.

Isle of Harris Gin

The island is hugely influenced by the surrounding seas. From its nearby shores the distillery picks, sustainably, Sugar Kelp. This is a large ‘kelp’ seaweed, dark browny-green, with a single broad frond that has a distinctive crinkly and wavy edge. {Wildlife Trusts]. There are eight other botanicals used in the distillation process.

Where to Buy Isle of Harris Gin

A gift set including a 70ml bottle of Harris Gin, 2 hand-made matching tumblers and a 50ml bottle of Sugar Kelp Water costs £80. The gin alone is £35 a bottle. Available from the distillery shop or online.

“Juniper, Coriander, Angelica Root, Orris Root, Cubebs, Bitter Orange Peel, Liquorice and Cassia Bark all play their role in defining the taste of our gin. But it is Sugar kelp which is key to the subtle coastal notes that mark out our spirit. Hand-harvested by a local diver from the deep underwater forests of the Outer Hebrides, this natural and sustainable ingredient completes the wider aspects of the gin’s flavour profile.” Harris Distillery

You cant help but admire the striking bottle. Designed by the Stranger & Stranger agency, it intends to capture the beauty and elemental nature of Harris, “evoking the sands of Luskentye, the woven twill of Harris Tweed and the ever-changing light of the Outer Hebrides“.

Serving Isle of Harris Gin

Harris Gin and Tonic
50ml Isle of Harris Gin
3 drops of Tonic Bitters
Tonic Water
garnish – grapefruit peel

Wipe the glass rim with grapefruit, Add a chunk of ice and pour the gin over. Add the bitters and a splash of tonic. If your palate is of a slightly more delicate nature just add more tonic. Rather than cubed ice I like to use the Whisky Edge Glass so lessen dilution but give maximum chill. This is a version of the Harris Serve, the distilleries preferred serving, that you could try if you do not have any of their Sugar Kelp Aromatic Water to hand.

The Harris Serve
50ml Isle of Harris Gin
3-4 drops of Sugar Kelp Aromatic Water
Walter Gregor’s Scottish Tonic with Quinine
Red or Pink Grapefruit

“We like to ‘build’ our favourite serve, savouring the smoothness of the Isle of Harris Gin unadulterated before any additions are made. So pour a good measure into a wide rimmed glass and sip neat. If you want to enhance the maritime elements of the spirit, add a few drops of out Sugar Kelp Aromatic Water to taste. then introduce ice, large blocks if possible to avoid dilution, and taste once more. If you feel tonic is required, add just a splash, try not to drown the gin flavours. Finally rim the glass with a wedge of red or pink grapefruit showing plenty of fruit flesh and add a slice to your final drink. Enjoy”

The Harris Serve

Isle of Harris Distillery Video

Isle of Harris Distillery
Isle of Harris, HS3 3DJ.

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