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20 Harris Highlights From 2021

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Our cask warehouse at Ardhasaig, expanding further this year.

With January now well underway, we thought we'd draw breath before looking forward, and take a moment to look back on last year.

As we tried to pick our highlights of 2021, it became clear just what a busy twelve months it had been as we emerged from lockdown life here in Harris.

So, here are the twenty moments, large and small, which made the final cut. And we've no doubt missed a few more along the way…

Sarah, in our new distillery Harris Tweed jacket, lights the peat fire.

1. The Reopening: It was terrific to light the peat fire and open our doors once more in April as lockdown rules eased and our 6th birthday beckoned later that year.

2. Scottish Gin Distillery of the Year: It was an incredible achievement to win this much-coveted Scottish Gin Awards trophy for the second time and a testament to the team's hard work here in Tarbert.

3. Even More Awards: As well as collecting Best Digital Experience and Excellence in branding at the SGA, we were also proud to win a Spirits Masters Award for our gin and take gold at the World Gin Awards in the highly competitive London Dry Gin category.

4. Stars Of The Small Screen: It was a lot of fun to find ourselves the toast of prime daytime television as Phil and Holly enjoyed our gin live on This Morning, and Lorraine and Andy raised a glass with us on Good Morning Britain.

Another glamorous awards night in Glasgow.

5. Distillery Babies: It was good news for Maggie, Harry, and Angus from the distillery team, who all celebrated the arrival of new additions to their families. No prizes for guessing what was in their glasses as they "wet the babies head" either…

6. Other New Additions: Our own distillery family grew as we welcomed Ruthie, Eilidh, and Elise to the team full-time, alongside other seasonal staff who helped us across the busier parts of the year.

7. A Ring And Roots: Our storytelling team's very own Lauren announced her engagement to partner Pim, and we were delighted when they bought a new house together here in Tarbert too.

8. Laurence Returns: It was wonderful to welcome back a long-term photographic friend of the project, Laurence Winram, who joined us to capture more island life, land and sea on camera.

Laurence was back, helping us to capture more of Harris.

9. The Hearach Gets Closer: We were happy to appoint a Head Whisky Blender and their assistant for the first time. Shona Macleod stepped into her new role alongside young Harry Wood to begin a learning journey with our flavour guru Gordon Steele.

10. Samples Sent: Dozens of private cask owners worldwide were pleased to receive the first samples from their beautiful barrels as we sent small bottles of four-year-old whisky to them for tasting.

11. Peated Spirit: A more heavily peated barley was delivered to our doors from our mainland malting to make a special batch of spirit imparted with flavours of Harris peat, cut and dried here on the island.

12. New Warehouses: We made more whisky spirit, and our warehouses were filling up fast. So, it was great news to break ground on two new buildings at Ardhasiag to help us store more casks in the future.

Private casks, peated spirit, and new warehouses.

13. The Refill Project: We continued to explore ecological ideas, and a new aluminium bottle became an exciting way to refill your Isle of Harris Gin bottle when it was time to top up. The project proved very popular with our biggest fans and was only available through an annual subscription.

14. Harris Tweed Jackets: Our ongoing Harris Tweed Project evolved further as we collaborated with award-winning Scottish designer Judy R Clark to create two beautiful new jackets in our bespoke cloth.

15. New Gift Sets: After over a year of development, we were delighted to launch a new range of gift sets and fully recyclable packaging. With stunning photography from local drone enthusiast Iain Angus Macleod and a new Copa-style glass, our product range continued to go from strength to strength.

16. Glasgow Pop-up: In the run-up to the festive season, we popped up in the city of Glasgow with a shop in the heart of Prince Square. It was an absolute pleasure to meet so many customers and share our island spirit in person.

The winter Glasgow Pop-Up shop in Princes Square.

17. The Harris Ceilidhs: Our virtual Harris cèilidhs continued through the first half of the year, bringing hundreds of people from around the world together to raise a glass and enjoy traditional music from young local musicians from the islands and highlands.

18. The Moonrock Necklace: Our designer friend Maeve Gillies brought an incredible piece of bespoke jewellery to display at the distillery. Made from silver and anorthosite stone, the Superquarry Squash Blossom necklace was inspired by a controversial part of our island history.

19. USA Travels: After many months of careful planning, the first shipments of Isle of Harris Gin made their way across the Atlantic to America. The journey from Tarbert began in Texas with our new friends at MISA Imports, and we quickly spread the good news to other states.

20. Fundraising Fun: Finally, we kept busy as a business helping to support local charities through our staff's community volunteering efforts at the Million Mile Beach Clean, a sponsored Kilt Walk which raised £7800, participating in Movember and The Cold Water Challenge to raise over £1000 for cancer charities, and our Annual Pumpkin Carving competition which raised £2590 for a community heart defibrillator machine. Our Isle Love Harris Gin bottle also raised £6870 for the NHS Together charity.

The 12 mile Harris Kilt Walk of 2021

Phew! It was quite a year, and the bar for 2022 has been set high.

But, as ever, we refuse to rest on our laurels and have some brilliant things to bring you this year too.

More on all that next week. Meantime thanks for being a vital part of everything we do, and here's to everything yet to come as we go forward together in the best of island spirits…


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