They say if you don’t like the weather in the Outer Hebrides just wait a minute…
Our climate is a very maritime one, strongly influenced by the oceanic waters which eventually break on our shores and the prevailing south-westerly winds. The North Atlantic Current warms the air as it heads for Harris bringing a mildness uncommon in such high latitudes, but with it comes plenty of rain.
August has brought some of our worst weather this year, with our island claiming the record for the UK's wettest place and lowest temperatures twice in this week alone. 55mm of rain fell from Wednesday into Thursday, and the steady streams which flow from our hills quickly turned into torrents.
But, we’re a pretty hardy community, and few of us choose to live here to build up a rich golden tan, so all this is just, quite literally, water off a Hearach’s back. Aside from the potential drama of a minor landslip near the distillery yesterday, life continues cheerfully and unabated.
The peat fire we light in our distillery each morning has proved a welcome focus for our visitors, particularly the brave walkers and cyclists who have slogged their way through sideways showers as they travel the road through the high Clisham hills to reach us.
The sight of sodden clothes drying in the warmth of the flames has not been uncommon, and our Canteen team have been happy to serve hot drinks to our damp visitors as they sit around the hearth, silently steaming in slow evaporation.
Elsewhere, the weather has ensured lush grass and good grazing for the crofters who look after livestock, but the freshly shorn sheep may scorn the loss of all that lanolin during these days of deluge. And, anyone who hasn’t bagged their peats while the sun shone will be finding their fàds far from dry.
These inclement few weeks won’t make much difference to our Sugar Kelp harvester Lewis Mackenzie, who gathers the key botanical ingredient for our Isle of Harris Gin, diving most days for this beautiful gold-green seaweed while the picking season lasts.
And, from a distiller’s point of view, the profusion of downpours is similarly unproblematic. Apart from the occasional forays outside to move casks or deal with deliveries, the glow of the copper stills and the heat of the Spirit Hall remains the same whatever the weather.
On the brightest of bright sides, our source river Abhainn Cnoc a ’Charrain, which surges over ancient Gneiss rock, is bringing us plenty of Scotland’s softest water.
As the old saying goes, “Today’s rain is tomorrow’s whisky” so we’re thankful that providence and place have ensured this vital supply for our spirit-making will never run dry.
Autumn is now just around the corner and September traditionally brings better days. So, as we wait for the grey clouds to clear and blue skies to return, however briefly, we raise a glass to these wettest weeks and all the blessings they bring.