Back to Journal

A Pause For Purpose

Posted on

This empty piece of land was soon to become our distillery home.

Despite being a young distillery, we have come a long way since work began on an empty piece of land in the village of Tarbert.

As we’ve grown over recent years, we’ve been able to connect with tens of thousands of people across the world both in person here in Harris and online through our social media channels and this journal.

We tend to tell our story as it unfolds, with an eye on the future and very little time spent looking back.

But, we realise that not everyone has been with us from the beginning so every now and again it’s good to stop for a moment and remind ourselves and our far-flung friends why we are here...

A distillery built with purpose, taking shape in 2014.

Under construction, a new dawn for the Harris Distillery.

The Isle of Harris Distillery began with a simple idea.

The inspiration came from Anderson 'Burr' Bakewell, who has been bound to this island through a long connection with nearby Scarp, and many decades of life spent among the landscapes of Harris and people of our community.

He believed that the rare and elusive spirit of this island could be captured in a bottle and shared with the world.

Over the decades Burr, like many others, noted with sadness the long-term decline in the island's population, our community's numbers having halved over the last fifty years.

As young people left our shores to seek their fortune, few were able to return to find work, set down roots and build a life in the place they called home. He believed that a distillery, built for not just years but for generations, could be a way to help stem this tide.

So, he gathered a group of like-minded individuals around him and set out on a seven-year journey to bring his ambitions to reality.

September 24th 2015 saw his simple idea finally come to fruition as the doors to the Isle of Harris Distillery opened for the first time.

That day, we gathered to light an inaugural fire in our distillery hearth. Three generations of Hearaich, the Gaelic word for the people of Harris, each placed a fàd, or block, of peat on the blaze to mark the occasion.

The opening day warehouse ceilidh with our community, 2015.

We then threw the largest ceilidh the island had ever seen with hundreds of our fellow islanders joining us in the cask warehouse for a night of music, dancing and song, as the first of our island spirit flowed.

The distillery started life with just 10 people and an ambition to double this number over the next five years. Today, we're proud to say we employ almost 40 permanent staff, a highly significant number in an island of fewer than 2000 inhabitants.

As a catalyst for positive change within our community, we continue to work with purpose, bringing new life to our island and supporting its aspirations to survive and thrive.

Thank you for being part of our plans as we move forward to meet these challenges together and here’s to all the good things still to come!

The distillery team in 2020.

Basket Alert

Go to basket