Islay, a small Hebridean island in the teeth of the wild Atlantic ocean. Battered by wind and rain and two hours on the ferry from mainland Scotland, it sounds remote and barren. But look closer and you’ll find fertile soil, crystal clear spring water and, if you know where to look, 22 fragrant botanicals that are perfect for making gin.
Our approach to spirits distillation began back in 1881, when brothers William, John and Robert Harvey constructed an avant-garde whisky distillery on the shores of Lochindaal, Islay. The distillery changed hands over the years, ending up under the auspices of former wine merchants. They persuaded the world-renowned distiller and Islay-man, Jim, to join them in what they were to later describe as ‘a white knuckle ride’.
They set about making whisky with the traditional equipment but with a new attitude towards the ingredients, the terroir, and a renewed and critical interest in the community here. They had a wild idea – could they create the first Islay Dry Gin?
As luck would have it, an academic authority on ecology, Dr Richard Gulliver, and his wife, Mavis, herself a knowledgeable plantswoman, had just retired to the island. They began a survey of the aromatic plants, wild herbs, and edible flowers that were growing here on Islay. From these, Jim made a selection of the botanicals that best captured the taste of Islay in all its diversity and depth. There were 22. And the recipe stuck.
Those wild ingredients are today collected by in-house Forager James Donaldson, and distilled by Head Distiller Adam Hannett at one of the only distilleries in the world to be B Corp certified.