Behind every gin there is a story. The staff and I had the pleasure of meeting Simon Erlanger who very kindly came into the restaurant and guided our staff through an informative tasting of his Isle of Harris Gin. Suitably charmed by his story and his company's fabulous ethos of the 'Social Distillery' we have the pleasure of working to help promote his special Gin throughout the month of November. Here's what we learned...
When the distillery decided to venture into the world of making gin, ethnobotanist Susanne Masters joined the Harris distillery team to research the potential of the island botanicals.
After looking at everything from Silverweed to Sphagnum Moss, she turned her attention to the sea and discovered, deep below the waves, a special species of seaweed…Sugar kelp. And so Saccharina latissima became the focus of the attention, growing in abundance around the shores and hand-harvestable by traditional methods.
Local sailor and diver Lewis Mackenzie then sourced the seaweed and utilising his expert knowledge he were able to reap a sustainable harvest. Gathered by his hand and sickle the folk at the Harris distillery could ensure an ecological addition to their spirit and bring a unique island ingredient to the other 8 botanicals they had chosen.
The science continued as they then collaborated with the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling at Edinburgh’s Heriot Watt University to produce the recipes and methodology required to make their new gin the best it could be.
They designed a special wee copper gin still and christened her “The Dottach” named after a feisty local lady of rather diminutive stature. Her namesake was made with great craftsmanship by artisan still-makers in Siena, Italy.
Once the botanicals and recipe worked with this new gin still they began to refine and optimise their spirit making and formed a special panel of local men and women tasked with the responsibility of nosing and tasting their output under the guidance of expert Gordon Steele.
Finally, they wanted to encapsulate this new gin in a bottle which spoke not just of its contents but of a wider island spirit. They were fortunate to capture the passion and imagination of the award-winning designers of Stranger & Stranger who visited Harris and left full of creative ideas. The rest of their work gave them packaging and a final product which the island can truly be proud of.
Nosing Panel leader Gordon Steele has been helping to shape and ensure every batch of this gin meets the highest standard before being bottled and shipped from the shores of Harris.
“Isle of Harris Gin has complexity a character of freshness with well developed citrus, floral and green herb notes.”
Going on to describe the ‘nose’ of the gin, Gordon tells us that in the glass we should be able to smell an array of interesting flavours. There is, he said…
“…a well-defined juniper note with pine needles, immediately followed by the fresh citrus notes of bitter orange, lime and grapefruit. The gin develops a complex floral note of rose and wallflowers with crushed green herbs, coriander and gooseberry all underpinned by mixed spice. The sugar kelp adds to the complexity and richness and gives a dry maritime note.”
Next there is the taste on the palate when the gin is imbibed on its own. He describes the flavours in the mouth as…
“Refreshing, with bitter juniper balanced with fresh fruit and cut herbs. A good balance between the bitter juniper and pine with the sweet fruit flavours of mango, grapefruit and orange. A green herb flavour has developed as well as crushed coriander.
And finally, the finish, those elusive moments after drinking…
“The finish is long with a dry flinty taste reminiscent of the sea.”
If you would like to visit this fascinating and charming distillery, please view their website here for more information, alternatively come in and enjoy an Isle of Harris gin with us at Le Chardon d'Or soon! Cheers!
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