We’re in the lazy days of a late Outer Hebridean summer, and while the rest of Britain bakes and braves heatwaves, we are left to battle the midges which rise on our typically warm but wet island evenings.
But, these little biting blighters aren’t the only thing blooming at this time of year, as the machair changes colour one last time, slipping into its final farewell outfit of purple harebells as the season slowly fades.
Of all the hues which paint our landscape at this time year, it is perhaps yellow which is most striking. Wildflowers like Bird's-foot trefoil, Bog asphodel, Yellow flag, Meadow buttercup, Meadow Pea and tiny Tormentil, all light up the land across Harris.
And then there are the bright, unmistakeable outcrops of wild gorse (Ulex Europaeus) which thrives in the acidic soil here, bravely staking its claim among our harsh Hebridean terrain.
A bushy, evergreen shrub, it can live for up to thirty years and erupts into a riot of vibrant pea-like flowers at the start of summer, with pods bursting open noisily on hot days, scattering their seeds far and wide.
So, when we looked to create our second drink apothecary release, it was to this wonderful plant, picked in the village of Rodel at the height of lockdown, that our friend and collaborator Amanda Saurin turned to for her local tincture number two.
She tells us…
“I spent a lot of time musing on what was needed from this tincture at this unusual time. There has been so much fear and heartbreak in recent months. So, I decided to look at plants which have a long history of protection and strength."
Once used as a traditional herbal treatment for ills like jaundice and scarlet fever, gorse’s essence is also believed to be a bringer of joy and light, with a particular affinity for uplifting the heart.
“It’s also a super prickly plant, a devil on the fingers to pick, and can be temperamental to work with, but the flowers smell of delicious coconut and capture the scent of an island summer.”
However, once picked and briefly macerated in sugar syrup, it also brings forth a more honeyed note and something ever so slightly medicinal. To balance this, Amanda turned to two other native plants, each with their own mythical properties.
"I also chose Hawthorn because, of all our native trees, it is one of the most heavily imbued with myth and legend. It is said to have the power to open the heart, to protect against evil, to grant wishes, and to offer strength in times of struggle. I also included nettle and its heart-shaped leaves."
These two additions, with their sharper, greener, and herbal flavours added complexity to the gorse flowers and helped counteract their natural sweetness, just a little.
Finally, to lift the recipe and bring a delicious citrus element to the tincture, there is a little bit of lemon, the only non-local ingredient brought to bear on this limited batch.
Together, in carefully tested proportions, they combine to create our new Harris Wild Gorse Tincture and provide another unusual way to explore the delights of Isle of Harris Gin.
As with our Sugar Kelp Aromatic Water and sell-out batches of Harris Wild Rose Tincture earlier this year, how you use it is up to your personal preference.
Add a few drops to your Harris G&T to bring a taste of island summer to your glass, use as a rinse to create a fragrant Martini, or go long with a small splash in a highball serve. Feel free to experiment and enjoy!
“Although intended to bring another dimension of flavour, I also hope it adds a few drops of love, peace and support from our little island to all the people with whom we connect. Failing that, it simply tastes bloody good!"
Once again, this is a limited season release capturing a fleeting moment in island time, so go and get hold of the glory of gorse while stocks last…