The links between the islands of the Outer Hebrides and Canada are long-standing. We are held by bonds of history and family, and, although separated by a wide ocean, our stories remain irrevocably intertwined.
In the 19th century, many thousands of emigrants left the Western Isles of Scotland to seek new lives far across the Atlantic. Whether pushed by circumstance or pulled by the promise of better days, waves of islanders broke upon the shores of places like Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton in Nova Scotia.
These new arrivals soon spread westward, settling in the townships of Quebec and moving onwards to Ontario where men and women from Harris villages like Drinishader, Direcleit and Kyles Scalpay began to build their futures.
By the 1880s the Canadian Prairies began to open up and Harris settlers followed the new railroads into Manitoba and the North West Territories in search of good land and work, alongside many other Scottish migrants who had made the long journey from their former homes.
Today, over a century on from these first brave endeavours, we’re undertaking our own adventure through these beautiful provinces with our Isle of Harris Gin.
After first bringing our island spirit to Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario, we're now delighted to arrive in British Columbia joining together our respective west coasts with the help of brothers Mark and Blair Robertson of Drinkwell Imports Ltd. based in Vancouver.
Their family has strong Scottish kinship and it was perhaps the pioneering, sea-going spirit of their great-great-grandfather Captain Thomas Robertson, a whaling captain, who inspired their forebears to set sail for new horizons in the early 1900s. Their grandfather eventually went to Vancouver Island for work and that’s where Mark and Blair’s father, and they, grew up.
Mark tells us…
“We started following the Harris story in the fall of 2018 when we saw that Harris Gin had made the journey across the Atlantic to Ontario. It was then that we decided to reach out to the distillery and were ecstatic to be given the opportunity to become a part of the story. For us, it not only fuels our passion for spirits but also allows us to celebrate our Scottish heritage of which we are extremely proud.”
We’re very happy to connect with them in this way too, with British Columbia enjoying a growing love for craft distilling to complement their excellent wineries and breweries, and a food and drink offering which attracts some of the best bartenders and chefs in North America.
Some of the first people to greet the good news of our gin’s arrival were Maggie and Ali Mackay and their sons Darren and Scott. Originally from the Isle of Lewis, Maggie and her husband visited our distillery in the summer of 2017, while Scott joined us last year to take a tour. After securing fresh supplies for themselves, they’ve been busy spreading the word to friends and family across social media.
A distiller at Shelterpoint Distillery in Oyster River has also been extolling the virtues of our work. Leon Webb helped us develop the recipe for Isle of Harris Gin back in 2014 before moving to Canada to further his career. His recent video blog tells his own tale of Hebridean ties.
Thanks to the enthusiasm of people like Leon, the Robertsons and the Mackays, we are off to a great start over there, and a second shipment from our shores has already been arranged to keep up with demand. Our bottles can now be found in 26 BC Liquor Board stores across the province as well as 13 JAK’s Beer Wine & Spirits stores in Metro Vancouver, Campbell River, Penticton and Williams Lake.
Our thanks to Mark, Blair and their team for being such great ambassadors and we look forward to reaching even more people and provinces soon, setting down roots and deepening our Canadian connections, old and new.
Available to order now:
British Columbia: www.bcliquorstores.com and www.shop.jaks.com