Kate Hannett is an Islay-raised, well-travelled, Geography graduate, who started writing for us freelance in 2017. She is a dab hand with a camera, and knows her plants, so her workload has evolved to include both all things audio visual, and assisting James with the collection and preparation of the island botanicals we need to make each batch of gin. She is no stranger to the distillery, having formerly had a full time job doing tours and tastings; she also has family on the inside.
Here’s her perspective these days on the place she calls home.
Islay. It’s where I was born and grew up. We lived out in the sticks and played in the mud, under bridges and down the fields in ‘the big puddle’. The hills and the seashore were ours to rule; picking posies of flowers and staining lips with blackberries was part of the deal. But it can be hard at times growing up on an island, it seems so very, very small; your business is everyone else’s. Part of me couldn’t wait to leave.
So, I stretched my wings out across the globe – with the caveat that I always needed to be near the sea. The city was fine for a bit but it felt uncomfortable, itchy. Unknowingly, the deep connection I had forged with the island growing up just pulled me back in later on.
My foraging roots don’t stem from a deep botanical background. More from having graduated to ‘overly keen amateur’ status. That and, I guess, a knowledge of the island and its quirks alongside a scattered education on the geographical and environmental make-up of the west of Scotland. It means when I see a patch of a certain rocky outcrop I can think to myself – that’s gneiss but I also bet that’s a good spot for wild thyme. Or I know there’s a nice spot of gorse up that way, a patch of clover down that track. It’s part intuition, part scrambling about the island for years, and part luck.
These days, I’ve had to re-tune and power up my knowledge of parts of the island a little bit. It is no longer a case of just going out for a walk. Sometimes going out for a walk with me is like we’re conducting a forensic search. My eyes are constantly glancing beyond the peripheries of the path and if I haven’t stopped to photograph something I’ve probably stopped to try and identify it. Or eat it. All stop-start distractions on a would-be enjoyable walk for others, it probably becomes quite tiresome.
But then some people enjoy golf.