Harris Distillery set to welcome summer tourists

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The Harris Distillery is moving into the final phases of development before opening its doors to the public in a few months’ time.

Work started in March last year, and plans are now well underway to see the first batches of whisky and gin being produced on-site.

Simon Erlanger, Director of Isle of Harris Distillers, said that most of the most of the infrastructure is now complete and the building is almost wind and water-tight, with the recent weather proving to be a good test of the building’s resilience.

He said: “Not a single tile was dislodged. It was a great test, with 100 mile per hour winds blowing through the site.”

Simon said that the stills will be arriving at the start of February, from Italy where they were made.

He continued: “That will be quite a symbolic moment when they arrive, after crossing the alps and arriving over sea.

“In Tarbert there will be a warehouse for whisky casks and a bottling hall, so everything can be done on site, and we’ll be able to make spirits, gin and whisky, at the same time.

“A special Harris botanical that will be used to infuse the distillery’s gin will be announced soon.

“The gin will be available from the day the distillery opens its doors.”

Mr Erlanger said that it has recently become tradition that whiskies bottle at around 10 or 12 years, but the recent market has produced exceptional whiskies after 3, 4 or 5 years, and the Harris whisky will be vibrant and medium peated.

Mr Erlanger continued: “We want a really distinctive whisky. The core product will have an element of peat in it, but it will be characteristic and full bodied like an island whisky.

“We anticipate that by using really excellent raw materials and, most importantly, the best casks, we can have a whisky available within four years.”

The recent focus has been on recruitment, and before Christmas the distillery hired seven locals to be part of the permanent team, none of whom have a background in the whisky industry.

Five of the new recruits spent the christmas period training at mainland distilleries, and the others are training now so that when the equipment arrives in February there will be a fully trained team to oversee the installation.

Three more permanent jobs at the distillery are to be filled, and once the full team of ten permanent employees is filled the distillery will start to employ seasonal staff.

Hopes are currently to see the distillery open to the public in the summer months, May or June.

Mr Erlanger said: “There won’t be a visitor centre. We are a distillery that welcomes guests. The reason for the distillery is to create jobs and bring tourists. It’s with and for the people of Harris.

“We are going to offer a human experience so there won’t be any wifi or audio visual experiences, it will be visitor friendly with a human feel.

“Small parties of up to 10 will be able to do a nice long tour and it will be as much about the area as the whisky.”

There will be an Open Day next Wednesday, 28th, in the Harris Hotel to inform local residents of further plans.