A historic single malt whisky
THE FIRST LEGAL DRAM FROM HARRIS
THE INFLUENCE OF AN ISLAND
The people from Pabbay, a small island off our western coast, could once boast of the uisge beatha which flowed from their hidden stills far from the exciseman's eyes.
These days are sadly long gone and the wee island now lies empty of both whisky and anyone to make it.
Today, we're proud to be reviving the tradition of Harris distilling almost 170 years later here in Tarbert.
Like the Hearaich themselves, our malt whisky is a conversation between nature and nurture, with two powerful parents, each influencing the dram in their own unique ways.
Firstly, there are the elements of Harris itself.
We're making The Hearach from the softest of Outer Hebridean waters, the fast-flowing stream from which it flows, Abhainn Cnoc a ’Charrain, running over the oldest rocks on earth.
And then there's the environment in which it all takes shape, a place swept by the Gulf Stream and Atlantic storms.
For all its wildness, the island is not always a savage place.
Those infamous winds keep the summer cool and in winter snow rarely lies except on the heights of the mighty Clisham mountain, helping to ensure that, despite all odds, we have a climate which is perfectly balanced for whisky maturation.
CHAOS IN THE CASKS
THE WONDERS OF WOOD
The second parent is the long, complex process of spiritual interaction with wood.
We take the sourcing of our casks very seriously, using only the best bourbon barrels from carefully chosen distillers in Kentucky and sherry butts from a single Spanish bodega.
We are also experimenting with full maturation in Pennsylvanian rye casks and Sauternes-style barrels from Bordeaux.
This focus on good wood will have a profound influence on the hue and expression of The Hearach as it resides in our warehouse by the shores of Loch an Siar near the village of Ardhasaig over the coming years.
Our distillers have been cutting peat by hand at 'Cleite Mhòr', an area of South Harris where peat has been cut for generations. These decayed remnants of ancient forests have been used to malt some of our barley for a more heavily peated expression of our dram.
The final results remain to be seen but, rest assured, our first whisky will be free from chill-filtering and naturally coloured, embodying all the character, soul and elemental nature of the Isle of Harris when it's finally ready to drink.
Every drop will have been distilled, matured, and will eventually be bottled, by local people in the Isle of Harris.
LIFE TAKES TIME
A SLOWER APPROACH
As every islander understands, life takes time.
Life here in Harris is lived at a different pace, a culture which has evolved naturally from our distance from big cities and closeness to the rhythms of the natural world.
This less regimented approach to the dictates of the clock is something we bring to our distilling work too.
Our mashing, for example is measured and gentle, the rakes of the mash tun turning slowly to create a lighter wort.
Our fermentation process is unusually long, from 3 up to 5 days, accomodating as it does the distillery's adherence to the island Sabbath with no work on a Sunday.
We're also in no rush to release our first, historic single malt to the world. We'll wait until the right moment to bottle it, when the whisky is at its best and worthy of bearing our island's name.
Exactly when that will be only time and taste will tell.
Meantime, we can tell you that The Hearach single malt whisky promises to be an Outer Hebridean dram of distinction.
Medium peated, to evoke the the gentle whiff of village fires, it will combine spirit drawn from both our bourbon and sherry barrels in careful balance.
Complex and full of Isle of Harris character, we look forward to sharing a glass with you someday soon, but not too soon...
" We know we can’t rush the seasons and have always been more dictated by natural rhythms than by the stopwatch. There’s a great appreciation of this idea I think and so what gets done in the distillery will not be rushed, we’d rather do it right.”Kenny Maclean, Head Distiller.