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Helping Hands Across Harris

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Jacqueline MacAskill from the Canteen team volunteering to distribute hand-sanitiser.

Thankfully, our Hebridean home has been spared the worst effects of the coronavirus crisis, for the moment at least. However, life under lockdown is now the norm and the impact on island supply chains has quickly been felt.

Like much of the country, many essential items have disappeared from shop shelves and while lack of pasta and loo roll can be an inconvenience, the absence of soaps and sanitisers have proved to be more of a problem.

But, as all islanders know, necessity is the mother of invention and it wasn’t long before some in our local community were applying a little ‘croft mentality’ to their creative thinking.

Distillery team local distribution at a safe distance. L to R: Jacqueline, Joanna, Jamie (Essence of Harris), Harry and Stevie.

We were recently contacted by Jamie McGowan from Essence of Harris, makers of candles and fragrances here in Tarbert, and Amanda Saurin of A.S. Apothecary who lives in the village of Northton.

Both were inspired to help meet the demand for hand-sanitiser, urgently needed by healthcare staff and frontline workers across the Outer Hebrides.

But they needed access to high-strength alcohol as a vital, virus-killing ingredient so who better to turn to in this hour of need than their friends at the Harris Distillery?

The Spirit of the Hebrides hand-sanitiser ready to go...

Jamie tells us…

“I realised there was a real demand but nobody could source it here. However, we had all the materials and equipment needed to make it ourselves, except the alcohol, so that’s when I got in touch. The distillery has supplied us with the alcohol which is key to the production of hand-sanitiser, it has to be above 60% ABV and 'denatured' too.”

Working with our Head Distiller Kenny Maclean under guidance provided by the World Health Organisation, Jamie and his team have been able to create this new island-made product in full accordance with legislation.

And, no time has been wasted getting stock to where it is needed most.

Amanda's sanitiser spray made with our island spirit.

Local fire, police, coastguard, and ambulance services are all now receiving supplies. Schools, care homes, charities, chemists, surgeries and even postal workers have all accessed an emergency allocation.

And the distribution doesn’t stop there.

Today, volunteers from our distillery team joined forces with Jamie’s, at a strict social distance, to safely deliver bottles to the doorsteps of elderly and vulnerable people within our community at their request.

To the south of our island, Amanda Saurin has also produced 25ml bottles of a hand-sanitiser spray drawing on her apothecary roots, using our alcohol spirit and essential oils with microbial properties.

Amanda labelling her bottles in the village of Northton, south Harris.

The sanitiser is being distributed freely to local care homes, community shops, NHS workers and other hard-hit services in the area.

Amanda says:

"As a maker of skincare products, we have years of experience of making gentle, effective preparations. We approached the hand sanitiser in the same way, thinking about which plants would enhance its action and protect the skin too. The alcohol from the Isle of Harris Distillery is particularly good because it is excellent quality which really helps."

The Harris Distillery team is very pleased to support these two important local initiatives and it is crucial we all keep working together to protect our communities at this critical time.

We hope this donation of our spirit will play a small part in keeping our key workers and wider island family safe while we face the challenges which lie ahead. Never has helping hands across Harris been so important.


A.S. Apothecary Mint & Rosemary hand-sanitiser is now available online from

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