These are strange days indeed. Earlier this week we took the decision to close the Harris Distillery's doors to the public as the Coronavirus crisis took hold across the UK.
Today, on the first day of Spring, the skies are that very particular hue of Harris blue and the sun is bringing some warmth to a rare gentle breeze. In our small corner of the country, on the surface, all seems well and the images on the news can feel a world away.
So far, our island has been spared from the spread of this new virus, with no reported cases and little sign of its imminent arrival. But, as a community, we're taking every necessary precaution and following all official advice to keep things this way.
Truth be told, with perhaps the lowest population density in Scotland, Harris can make it easy to keep some social distance and self-isolation is often just a hard fact for getting through the long dark winter.
But, we are a close-knit family of islanders and cutting ourselves off from friends, family and fellow members of the community is just as challenging as it is anywhere.
Here at the distillery all of us who can work from home have been asked to do so, leaving a small team of seven working safely behind the scenes to keep the Isle of Harris Gin flowing.
Thanks to high-speed broadband we continue to meet virtually, getting to grips with video conferencing and dealing with the distraction of demanding dogs in the background!
All staff continue to be paid and those who are unable to fulfill their usual role with us have offered their time to local volunteer services should help be needed over the coming months.
We’re also pleased to be supporting two local enterprises in their efforts to meet the demand for much-need hand sanitiser, particularly in nearby medical practices and elderly care homes.
Our distillers have donated high-strength alcohol from their spirit-making to Essence of Harris in Tarbert and Amanda Saurin of A.S. Apothecary who lives in Northton, to act as a key ingredient in the production of this vital product.
In the face of these new challenges, we remain optimistic, heartened to hear stories of other communities across the world pulling together to play their part.
We’re reminded how fragile we are as individual human beings, but what great strength we share when we support each other. Connection to one another, even when it can’t be physical, has never been so vital.
Soon the crofts, moor, and machair here will welcome the arrival of this season’s new lambs, a sign that life continues even in the toughest of times. This island and its special spirit will endure, come what may.
Over the coming months, there will be stories to be shared, lessons to be learned and friendships to be made and maintained as we experience these unprecedented events alongside you.
Meantime, from our island home and family to yours, we send our love and wish you good health. Let’s make every effort to stay connected and remain more open than ever as we go forward together as one.
Our thoughts are also with the many amazing bars, restaurants and Click & Collect partners we work with who are facing hardship at this time. Please support them however you can.
Our own online shop remains open and we would be delighted to keep sending our Isle of Harris Gin to all who wish to continue enjoying our island spirit at home.