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The Crofters Distillery

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Chris Thomson getting hands-on with the lambing season.

There are lots of good reasons to make beautiful Outer Hebridean spirits, but here at the Isle of Harris Distillery, we do it with purpose. We want to build an enterprise which lasts for generations, creating long-term, permanent jobs in the heart of our local community.

So, we’re delighted to be growing our Tarbert team again this month as we welcome two fresh faces to the family.

Joining us as a Trainee Distiller, Phil Bertin has lived in Harris for the last five years. Formerly from Kilmartin in Argyll, he’d previously worked as a marine engineer but today is perhaps best known in his role as a local police officer.

New trainee distiller Phil Bertin rakes the barley draff which goes to feed local croft livestock.

So, what has brought about this new beat for Phil? 

“I was really just ready for a new challenge in life, and I felt that the distillery ethos fitted well with my own values. The role of distiller also appealed to me, allowing me to use some of my previous technical experience in a new and challenging environment.”

Like most islanders, Phil’s working life finds him busy in many and varied roles, and when he’s not involved with the North Harris Trust, he spends much of his free time working on his croft

He tells us…

“I have sheep, cattle, pigs and hens, which all require a lot of care and attention! It had never crossed my mind before this that I might also end up looking after whisky and gin, but I am delighted to have been given that chance with the distillery.”

We’re also very pleased to add another new member to the Bottling Hall team, as Chris Thomson gets on board too. 

Originally from Campbeltown, he recently returned to his roots here in Harris, where he spent many happy summers in his grandmother’s home village of Maraig.

Like Phil, Chris has also succumbed to the curious allure of crofting…

“I’ve always dreamed of raising my own sheep on land here in Harris, and I am in the process of sorting out my own croft at the moment. I used to work the land a lot with my grandpa, so I already have the crofting skills but until I get my own livestock, I’ve been helping with lambing in the neighbouring villages.”

Bearing in mind that crofting life these days rarely turns a profit, he continues…  

“With the distillery now being here and this position becoming available, it was the perfect opportunity to bring in a stable income at the same time.”

It’s heartening to hear of their love for this traditional way of life, with a working ethos built on the ability to turn a hand to many tasks.

This philosophy, which runs through all our work and the growing community of staff we have built here, will serve them well in their new roles.

So, welcome once again to Chris and Phil, as we wish you every success here at the crofters' distillery!

Some of our 7-strong distilling team including Phil and apprentice Rebekha.

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