Located in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, the Isle of Harris is known for its sandy beaches, rugged mountains, and now it’s eponymous gin. In recent years, Scotland’s terroir-forward gins have been turning heads across the globe, and that’s part of what makes Isle of Harris Gin such a unique offering.
Made with local, sustainably farmed sugar kelp, Isle of Harris Gin offers a maritime spirit created with nine botanicals: juniper berries, coriander seed, angelica root, orris root, cubebs, bitter orange peel, liquorice, cassia bark, and the aforementioned sugar kelp. It’s a gin that speaks of place and those who create it.
In this week’s Bottle Breakdown, we caught up with distiller Rebekah Morrison who talked to us about her time at the distillery, what makes Isle of Harris so unique, and what she likes to pair with the gin.
Spirited Zine: Just to get started, can you tell us about your first experience drinking gin and how that experience impacts the way you approach making Isle of Harris Gin?
Rebekah Morrison: I had tasted the gin when it was first released and was pleasantly surprised at how fresh and unique it was to any gin I had tasted before, so it’s easy to enjoy my job when I’m helping create a product I also enjoy.
SZ: You joined Isle of Harris Distillery in November 2018 as part of its distilling apprenticeship. Why did you want to pursue a career in spirits at Isle of Harris distillery?
RM: Having already worked part time in the distillery’s kitchen, I had already felt the sense of community and belonging that the distillery brought, so when the opportunity to work full time as well as learn about the spirits industry was advertised, I applied.
SZ: What is involved in the apprenticeship program and what is the most important lesson you learned from working at the distillery?
RM: The apprenticeship is a credited award that allows you to learn on the job as opposed to learning it in a classroom environment. I think an important lesson I’ve learned from the job is every failure gives you a chance to grow both personally and professionally.
SZ: You’re from the Isle of Harris and made the first Isle of Harris Gin batch of 2019. Can you tell us a bit about the island and how its ethos makes its way into every bottle?
RM: With living on such a small island comes with having a unique connection with everyone here on some level, and I feel that’s what the distillery tries to give to everyone that receives a bottle, goes into the shop or experiences a tour.
SZ: What botanicals go into the gin and can you take us through the distilling process?
RM: All together there are nine botanicals, juniper berries, coriander seed, angelica root, orris root, cubebs, bitter orange peel, liquorice, cassia bark, and sugar kelp. After the botanicals have been mixed, they get macerated into a spirit and water mixture for 24 hours before getting distilled, leaving out the heads and tails and only collecting the heart of the spirit.
SZ: How do you like to enjoy your Isle of Harris Gin? Are there any cocktails you like to make with it?
RM: I personally like to drink the gin neat, but I do like the Harris lavender martini which is featured on the distillery’s website.
SZ: Are there any food pairings that you’d recommend?
RM: As it’s quite a fresh gin, I would personally recommend shellfish or sorbet to pair with Harris gin.
SZ: More and more distilleries are popping up across Scotland and around the globe. What is it about the Isle of Harris that makes it such a unique distillery?
RM: The Isle of Harris distillery is quite unique as it’s a social distillery that is all about the people and their values towards the close-knit community. It has also created a huge opportunity for employment and tourism in Harris that otherwise might not have been there, where they have given people from the island the chance to be completely trained and employed full time.