Isle of Harris

The Isle of Harris distillery in the small village of Tarbert describes itself as a 'social distillery' and was founded to strengthen the local economy. It is the first (legal) distillery on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides.

Information about the Distillery
1 Bottles
Scotland, Islands
-6.803890 57.897763
Alexander Bakewell
Average tasting notes Tasting Notes
Calculated from 1 Tasting Notes
Peat Smoke:
Details about the Distillery

The Whisky

The Isle of Harris Whisky 'The Hearach' (Gaelic for a resident of Harris) is distilled, matured and bottled entirely on the island. The water the distillery uses comes from the stream Abhainn Cnoc a 'Charrain, which runs over the oldest rock on earth. With the Highlands bordering to the east and the wild, open Atlantic to the west, the Isle of Harris distillery is one of the most remote distilleries in Scotland.

While waiting for the first bottling of Hearach, the distillery produces and sells its Isle of Harris Gin. The expected Whisky will not be chill-filtered or coloured and will embody the character, soul and nature of the Isle of Harris. The first bottling of Hearach will be limited to 1,916 bottles - equal to the population of the Isle of Harris - and will have no less than 46%.

The Production

The Whisky is matured in ex-Kentucky Bourbon casks as well as Sherry casks from Huelva in Spain and is stored in the distillery's warehouse on the banks of the Loch an Siar near Ardhasaig.

Isle of Harris Pot Stills
Isle of Harris Pot Stills

The Gin

The core ingredient of Isle of Harris Gin is sugar kelp, a type of brown alga that tastes slightly sweet. The seaweed is harvested in the spring from the island's local lakes and then dried. Sustainable harvesting means that the sugar kelp is allowed to grow back during the cooler months. The seaweed gives the Isle of Harris Gin its distinctive maritime character, while classic Gin botanicals such as juniper berries, coriander seeds, cassia bark and angelica root provide the typical spicy-sweet Gin flavour. Orange peel, cubeb pepper, liquorice and orris root accentuate the Gin's maritime aroma in small quantities.

Distillation takes place in a small copper still. Rather uncommon for Gin, heads and tails are cut off during distillation and only the heart piece of the spirit ends up in the bottle. The foreshots have a very high alcohol content, but little flavour. There is also little flavour left in the faints and the alcohol content is lower than desired. In the middle cut, the flavour and alcohol strength are exactly what the distillers aim at. Unconventionally, they do not reuse the heads and tails in the next batches, but remove them completely. Although this is an expensive decision, they only want to capture the pure flavour of the heart in the Isle of Harris Gin. The soft water with a low mineral content for the Gin comes from the rainwater stream Abhainn Cnoc a 'Charrain. After distillation, each bottle is hand-filled and labelled directly at the distillery

hand filled and labelled bottles
hand filled and labelled bottles


The Isle of Harris Distillery was the brainchild of Alexander 'Burr' Bakewell, who has been associated with the island for over 50 years and was keen to do something about the weak local economy and the associated population decline. In the spirit of the 'Social Distillery', the team is made up of only locals, each of the five distillers hired are completely new to the Whisky industry and specially trained to make the Harris Whisky. The leftover barley is given to small-scale farmers on the island for their livestock and the community 'Nosing Panel' meets regularly to check the quality of the spirits.

The Visitor Centre

The distillery, with its welcoming peat fire always burning, attracts local residents and visitors alike and is open to guests Monday to Saturday. There is a shop with regional products and a canteen where both staff and visitors can get simple meals made from fresh and regional ingredients. Guided tours of the distillery are also available at ten pounds per person, lasting about an hour and including Whisky and Gin samples.

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