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The Blenders Pt. 2

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Our new blenders, Harry Wood and Shona Macleod, in the Spirit Hall.

Last month we shared the good news about the appointment of our new distillery blenders. Tasked with testing and tasting our whisky spirit, Shona Macleod and Harry Wood will be working hard over the coming months to define the flavour profile of our forthcoming single malt, The Hearach.

After a rigorous analysis of their olfactory skills, we're proud to see these two key members of our team grow into this exciting role. With Shona positioned as Head Blender and Harry as her assistant, they've now begun their life-long journey into the joys of whisky sampling.

As we learned last time, our friend and flavour guru Gordon Steele, who has worked with us from the outset to help us create our first historic dram, will accompany them on their new path. Together, the trio will be responsible for agreeing on the final single malt recipe when the time is right.

Exploring and experimenting with our cask samples.

Three cask samples from the Ardhasaig warehouse ready to be tasted.

We caught up with Shona and Harry to learn more about what their new jobs will entail. Shona is one of the original Tarbert Ten and our Guest Team manager, but her impressive aptitude to nosing and tasting on our Isle of Harris Gin sensory panel has led her to this role. She tells us…

"There's a lot of sensory work as we really get to know our spirit. We carry out weekly assessments of the new make spirit produced to ensure both quality and consistency, and allow the distillers to tweak various parts of their process to make small flavour changes here and there if required."

She continues…

"We're also working on the blends from recently drawn samples from the variety of casks used to develop a recipe for The Hearach. In addition, we're exploring ratios of spirit matured in different bourbon and sherry casks which is the first step in a series of other decisions required around the recipe."

Harry Wood puts his nose to the test once more.

Shona, Harry, and Gordon in another learning sensory session as part of their training.

Her young assistant Harry has also been part of the team for some time now, although his remit up until recently revolved around the bottling operation. However, like Shona, his ability to understand and determine the notes and flavours of our spirit sets him up nicely for his role as an understudy. He tells us…

"We're also cataloguing and recording our findings to keep a tidy archive of spirit that we may look back on in due course. In addition, we're learning more about making spirits alongside our distillers so that we can see how different parts of the process imact flavour."

He continues…

"Personally, the challenge is wanting to know all there is to blending at once, but not being able to. You can get carried away asking questions, but you need to learn one step at a time. It requires a good level of patience, but we're very much learning with an eye on the future. It is a tremendous responsibility being bestowed on us, but we're happy to accept it."

Shona at our Ardhasaig warehouse taking samples from our casks.

Talking of questions, the two most often asked of them are "When will the whisky be released?" and "What will it taste like?". On the former, they say that it will only be released when it's ready, and only time and taste will tell exactly when that will be. On the latter, Shona and Harry are unsurprisingly tight-lipped, but when pushed, hint at the direction…

Shona says...

"We're perhaps looking at a medium-peated dram, full of character and complexity, all with a beautifully long finish."

Harry concurs, suggesting…

"The flavour may travel toward a whisky with a noticeable peat-fire note, pursued by a diversity of pleasant floral and fruit aromas, as well as a richness of spice."

A small selection of our filled casks in the Ardhasaig warehouse.

With the beautiful chaos in the casks still ongoing, there is much still to be determined as our spirit continues to interact with wood and the elements of the island at the maturation warehouse in Ardhasaig.

But, we'll leave these critical decisions safely in the hands of our new Harris blenders as they carry the weight of an island's expectation and the ambition to bring the best of their Outer Hebridean home to the wider world.

Meantime, as we wait patiently for the arrival of The Hearach single malt whisky, let's raise a glass to our new blenders and the wonderful roads of learning which lie ahead of them...


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