USA breakthrough for Harris distillery
Six pallets of Harris Gin were making their way round the Florida Panhandle this week to Houston and then on to Dallas as their destination.
The consignment marked the start of a new marketing agreement which will see both Harris Gin and the Tarbert distillery's single malt whisky, when it becomes available, being distributed initially in three American states - Texas, California and Illinois.
On Monday, the sales team of Misa Imports were given a virtual tour of the Isle of Harris Distillery in order to familiarise them with the story of place and people behind the products. The agreement is seen as crucial to the brand's future growth in the world's most lucrative spirits market.
The distillery in Tarbert now employs a team of 40, providing a vital lifeline to the local Harris economy.
Managing director Simon Erlanger told the Gazette: "America is the world's biggest market for single malt by value and the super-premium gin market is developing rapidly. I always knew we had to find the right partner but bitter experience throughout my career in the industry has taught me it is not easy.
"Really, America is 50 different markets each with its own rules. Ever since prohibition ended, you can only sell through a three tier system of importer, wholesaler and retailer.
"It's of tremendous importance to find the right partner to help us through all of that".
He was contacted two years ago by Misa Imports whose founder, Sam Assaad, had "discovered Harris Gin in the window of La Maison du Whisky shop in Paris" and "instantly fell in love with the brand". Simon travelled to Dallas to check them out, was impressed and the relationship developed over the past year.
"America," he predicted, "will come out of Covid very strongly and we want to be there when it happens. The team at Misa have a passion for the product and that really matters". The choice of the three initial states, he said, means targeting their main cities including Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Harris exiles in these places, anxious for a taste of home, should not have long to wait.