Work has begun on the first whisky distillery to be built on the Isle of Harris - with the aim of creating 20 local jobs.
A new single malt - to be called The Hearach, the Gaelic for an inhabitant of the island - will be distilled, matured and bottled at the distillery in Tarbert.
As only the second whisky distillery in the Outer Hebrides, the venture will open up an entirely new whisky region for Scotland.
Isle of Harris Distillers have raised £10 million to build and fund the distillery from a number of public and private investors. All the necessary building and production permissions are in place and contractors have started work on the site.
The plant will, over time, bring 20 vital jobs to the island, a very important boost to an economically fragile area. It has been a central plank of planning for the distillery from the start, that the project is based not only on commercial success but on the benefit that it can bring to the island and its people.
The distillery, which has attracted finance from 17 private investors around the world, has also won the support of the Harris Tweed Authority, lovers of the Outer Hebrides, local politicians and the people of the island themselves, as well as whisky enthusiasts and connoisseurs.
This involvement with Harris and its community has helped to secure significant financial commitment from the public and private sectors, including Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise, including its Globalscot network and the backing of these organisations has been crucial to the project.
“We are building the ‘social distillery’ for the island and people of Harris,” said Simon Erlanger, Director. “The Hearach single malt will
create sustainable employment and economic growth and optimism for the people of Harris - while the spirit of Harris itself will shape the unique character of this new whisky.
“Harris is an elemental place. The way of life in the island has deep roots, its people take time to savour what they enjoy and we believe The Hearach single malt will reflect that.”
The new distillery is scheduled to be completed by the first quarter of 2015 and will produce around 300,000 bottles of single malt whisky a year. It will also distil a Harris gin.
The first production of The Hearach will not be available in the shops until it has matured in the distillery’s Harris warehouse for a number of years. A limited number of casks from the first year’s production will, however, be made available for sale to individuals. There will also be an early opportunity to form closer ties with the distillery by joining a members’ club.
Visitors to the island - recently voted by Trip Advisor users the finest in Europe - will also receive a warm welcome at the distillery.
“Collectively, we hope that this will give anyone who is interested a chance to get involved,” said Mr Erlanger.
Anderson Bakewell, Founder and Chairman, had the vision a number of years ago to create Harris’s first distillery. “One should not underestimate the challenges of getting this venture off the ground, but once airborne, the view of the archipelago of the Outer Hebrides is breathtaking,” said Mr Bakewell. “What is particularly exciting, at a time when Scotch whisky is enjoying spectacular growth, is the prospect of bringing something of real value both to the industry and the islands.”