Once upon a time, before building works and spirit-making in Tarbert had begun, the Isle of Harris Distillery had few tales to tell. It was a period of high hopes and big dreams, shared only with a select few.
But, on the 17th of May 2014, our managing director Simon Erlanger send our inaugural digital story out into the world by email, a simple 'Hallo From Harris' sent to a few hundred of our first subscribers on World Whisky Day.
2015 proved to be a busier year for our storytelling, as we made our first forays into the world of social media with a shiny new Facebook page and I began writing regular long-form stories for the now weekly missives from across the Minch in March.
These weekly tales from Tarbert, sent to inboxes across the world every Friday at 5 pm, proved popular and our online audience began to grow as we connected with more and more people with each passing month.
Embracing the digital opportunities recently brought to our doorstep by the arrival of high-speed island broadband, we were able to share our newly opened Social Distillery message, and its Isle of Harris Gin and ground-breaking bottle design, with thousands of people far from our shores.
The rest, as they say, is history. As word of our gin and whisky-making ambitions spread, we've worked hard to keep the news from Harris flowing and in January 2018 our storytelling team grew to a grand total of two as Shona Sutton joined as an assistant.
Today in 2020, emerging from the challenges of COVID-19 and as we look towards the arrival of The Hearach whisky in a few years, we're delighted to grow our small family of storytellers once more.
So, this month we're very happy to add two talented local women, Lauren MacSween and Mairi MacKenzie, to our small team here in Tarbert.
Lauren will be tasked with engaging with the hundreds of comments and messages we get each day. Building on her artistic talents she'll also be developing her graphic design skills and supporting our creative projects. She tells us…
"I am most excited about being able to develop my art and design skills with the distillery. I feel very lucky that my creativity has been recognised and that I have been given an opportunity to gain experience and training in graphic design as opportunities such as these are few and far between – particularly in Harris!'
Mairi, who was our Canteen cake baker before the coronavirus crisis, takes on the challenge of helping us understand and interpret the mountain of metrics and data generated by all this digital activity.
As well as getting to grips with the analytics and insights which underpin our social media world, she'll also be bringing more Gaelic language to the words we share each week.
Mairi tells us…
"There are lots of elements to my new job I am looking forward to like being in an actual team, but I'm going to sound really geeky now, it's the numbers and data, and the story they tell, that excites me most!"
And Shona's new role in creating even more engaging content for us across all our channels is also relishing the new challenges as part of a larger team as she enthuses…
"I'm excited to be developing my skills further in social media. I've learnt a lot already in the two years within my role but I'm looking forward to seeing how I can progress further. I'm also excited to have a bigger team to bounce ideas off!"
Together we plan to continue sharing the best words, pictures, sounds and film from the Isle of Harris with you, always striving to deepen the connection between you and our island as the years go by.
We'll meet Mairi and Lauren again soon, but with an enterprise which aims to last for generations, our story, and theirs, is only just beginning.