Since I first joined the Tarbert Ten team back in 2015, it’s been an honour to tell the Isle of Harris Distillery story.
Back then, there were only ten local men and women, each drawn from our local community and all bravely embarking on a new adventure.
For my part, I was a Harris Tweed weaver and sheep-keeping crofter by day and freelance writer (and whisky drinker) by night!
Led by managing director Simon Erlanger, together we set out to build something special, something sustainable, something that would thrive here in Harris for generations to come.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride ever since, with more twists and turns than the Golden Road that runs along our eastern shore.
While we always say that life takes time in these islands, truth be told the pace of the last few years has often been swifter than a North Harris deer, and it’s a rare day when we stop and take stock.
But, this week gave us one of those days as we gathered together the distillery team, some from far and wide, and the fickle summer blessed us with blue skies and sunshine.
On Tuesday, we held our weekly ‘Parliament’ in the nearby village of Ardhasaig where our cask maturation takes place, alongside two new warehouses reaching completion.
These parliaments are inspired by an old St Kilda tradition where a community would gather to discuss the day's events and work which lies ahead.
At 9.30 am, we all met in the shadow of whisky barrels and among a fragrant embrace of spirit and oak, salt-sea air and heather bloom.
We walked among the alleyways of 5000 whisky casks, a towering testament to the hard work of the last seven years, trying to take in the scale of the achievements so far.
Then we turned our attention to the new warehouses alongside, two symbols of our island’s ambition and the distillery’s commitment to the Harris community’s future.
It was hard to imagine such cavernous spaces will one day be occupied by thousands more whisky casks of our own making. But, they surely will, and in no short space of time either.
The next day we had another wee gathering, this time a fireside cèilidh in typical Harris fashion, and were joined by our board of directors to complete the family affair.
To the sublime sounds and songs of Sian, we enjoyed a few fine hours in great company and, of course, Isle of Harris Gin as the cocktails and conversation flowed.
Simon Erlanger our MD tells us…
“My lasting memory of the evening will be the buzz from all the young people who now make up the distillery family. All talented and eager, with fresh ideas and ambition for our project and our island. This is why we started the distillery. To provide future generations with opportunities to thrive in this beautiful place. It’s a wonderful, positive thing in these difficult times.”
And with that, we raise a glass to everything the future holds, and to you for being such an important part of the journey with us.
There have been so many great tales from Tarbert shared so far, but as a writer, it’s clear that the Isle of Harris Distillery story is only just beginning…