On Monday morning the distillery doors were unlocked for the first time this year. Dark peats were piled upon dry kindling as we lit a fire in the hearth to warmly welcome 2019 and life began to return to our home here in Tarbert.
In the depths of an Outer Hebridean winter, island visitors are few and far between with only the hardiest of adventurers venturing to these isles. But, we didn’t have to wait long before familiar faces and new friends began to appear.
The Shop shelves were fully stocked with row upon row of blue-green glass bottles of Isle of Harris Gin, and they were soon being wrapped, bagged and carried home by keen customers who had waited patiently to replenish their stocks.
Behind the scenes our warehouse bustled with activity as we tackled all the orders placed over the festive season. Bottles were packed into boxes, gift messages handwritten, address labels carefully applied and pallets loaded ready for swift shipping the following day.
In the Spirit Hall, work to install our three new wooden washbacks recommenced as the distillers joined in the efforts to expand our whisky-making potential. Among a bewildering maze of pipework, the Oregon Pine vessels were being slowly shifted into place with just inches to spare.
The Canteen took another day to get up to speed, the bad weather hampering local ferry services and with it, supplies of fresh ingredients. But the extra 24 hours afforded time to prepare the kitchen and by Tuesday the familiar aroma of hale and hearty soups and homebaking had returned.
Although our Tours will take a little more time to begin again, our staff will be happy to share both our spirit and story with everyone who joins us here at the distillery. Our local guides will be back in March, and we’ve some new ideas to introduce to their story-telling along the way.
We’re all looking forward to the months ahead after an extraordinary 2018, a year in which we collected Scotland Food & Drink Excellence awards for 'Distilling' and 'Best Product', Scottish Outdoor & Leisure Awards' 'Best Distillery Tour' and the coveted Scottish Gin Awards 'Scottish Gin Distillery Of The Year' trophy.
We were proud to receive accolades from the gin-loving public too, being voted both the Scottish Gin Society ‘Scotland’s Favourite Gin’ and Gins Of Scotland ‘Scottish Gin Of The Year'. And for his achievements, our managing director Simon Erlanger collected the Institute of Directors 'Director of the Year' awards for Scotland and the UK.
There was also much cause for celebration as our new-make spirit officially became legal scotch whisky taking us one step closer to the release of 'The Hearach' single malt. This historic dram still remains a few years away from release but we are delighted with the potential even at this early stage.
So, as the new year begins, we invite you to join us as the weeks unfold and new stories are told. We have lots of exciting things planned and if you can’t join us here at the social distillery in person, then please do get in touch by email and across social media, we’d be delighted to connect with you and hear your stories too.