As the coronavirus swept from the markets of Wuhan to the cities of the west, it brought with it a sea-change in everyone's day-to-day lives.
Very few places have been left untouched by the pandemic and, for once, we’ve all found ourselves united in common cause as we faced a fresh global challenge together.
Here in Harris, it brought a new perspective to our work as our relationships with international partners took on a new dimension, one of a personal shared experience that only deepened our mutual connections.
We currently ship Isle of Harris Gin to 20 different countries, with every order taken by a small team in the village of Tarbert. Each bottle is filled, sealed, and sent from our island shores to all corners of the world.
Two of this team, Peter Kwasnieski and Rachel MacDonald, are responsible for our key global markets and spend a lot of time on the phone, making video calls, and exchanging emails with the great people we work with, from Nova Scotia to New Zealand.
As well as discussing business, inevitably Peter and Rachel swap local news and updates on life in this new normal as stories are shared across many thousands of miles. Rachel tells us…
“Although the situation is constantly shifting, Germany wasn't so badly hit at the beginning of the pandemic, with restrictions lifting at a quicker pace than other countries. Small shops started opening in April with bars following suit in May.”
"It’s so important to spread some joy these days, so we were also pleased to launch the special I LOVE Harris Gin edition to our customers there, and our new partners Alba Import have used it to help tell our story in a different way.”
Next door, France has faced difficult times too but the good people at La Maison du Whisky, who look after our gin there, have kept the Harris flag flying throughout.
Parisians were treated to the beauty of our bottles and island landscapes as they strolled at a safe social distance past the window displays of their beautiful Odeon store in stylish St. Germain.
Further afield, Isle of Harris Gin has been wholeheartedly embraced by the people of Ontario, Canada. Now available in a 750ml bottle in LCBO stores, we’ve been delighted with the response from gin lovers there, and recently picked up an Elsie Award for the 'Spirit Of Sustainability' thanks to our commitment to job creation in the Outer Hebrides.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, we also proudly received an impressive 92 points score from food and drinks writer Christopher Waters from the Globe & Mail newspaper.
Other countries continue to show signs of recovery including Japan, Italy, Sweden, Singapore, Malta, and many more. Peter, who looks after 17 of these markets, tells us…
“Some countries have been hard hit and had a very difficult time, but I'm happy to say that most are heading towards a positive end to 2020. We realise that sales are important but what matters most is that all of our partners and their families are safe.”
"It has been the most unusual year, we're universally social creatures and love close contact, so losing this in our daily lives has been hard for everyone. I'm glad that some form of normality is resuming and people everywhere are reconnecting through Isle Harris Gin as they venture out to safely socialise with friends and family again.”
Rachel agrees, telling us…
“We know the allure of the Outer Hebrides well, and there's something special about being able to put a bit of that in a bottle to share it with the world. It’s perhaps the next best thing to being here! Of course, many may never have heard of our little island, but we’re pleased to be putting it on the map, one country at a time.”
“We're very proud every time we see someone, somewhere in the world enjoying a little taste of Harris. It may be difficult to visit us right now, but once you’ve poured yourself a well-earned Harris Gin, close your eyes and you will find yourselves here. That’s a big part of why we do what we do!”
We’ll drink to that.
Thank you to all our partners and customers, near and far, who have helped the world keep turning during these tough times. Good health to you all, or as we say in Gaelic, slàinte mhath!