Sponsored: You might think Scotland’s west coast islands are only for whisky lovers – but you’d be wrong.
There’s a whole world of exceptional gin to explore too. So get your trip to Islay or Harris booked in and start swotting up on your botanicals, as we team up withHere, Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac) Ferries to bring you the region’s most crystal clear of spirits…
1 The Botanist Gin, Islay
Islay might be most famous for its whiskies. But The Botanist is certainly helping to put the island on the gin map as well. Inspired by the rich variety of local plants and herbs, The Botanist produces gins that reflect the very essence of the island. The local flora plays a big part in their gins. Some 22 island botanicals are responsibly foraged to help produce a unique tasting spirit.
Distillery tours are available year-round but you need to book in advance. The tours are family friendly too. So any youngsters are welcome to tag along, but warehouse visits are for over 18s only. While you’re there, why not visit the adjacent Bruichladdich whisky distillery as well?
Getting to and from Islay also gives you a choice. CalMac Ferries leave from Kennacraig to Port Askaig in the north east of the island, and also to Port Ellen in the south. Whichever route you choose, the distillery at Bruichladdich is no more than a half hour drive, which gives you time to enjoy some of the island’s stunning scenery. And for a bit of variety, you could take a different route for the journeys there and back.
2 Isle of Harris Gin, Harris
They might be relative newcomers to the distilling industry, (the distillery only opened in 2015), but The Isle of Harris Gin promises the complex flavour of nine botanicals found on the island. Ingredients include sugar kelp, hand-harvested by a local diver, who probably appreciates a fine G&T after a day’s underwater foraging.
A visit to this ‘social distillery’ gives you a taste of the true spirit of the island. It’s open Monday to Saturday, and you’ll find a warm welcome boosted by the peat fire that’s kept burning in the open hearth.
Getting to Harris
There are a number of ways you can travel by ferry to Tarbert on Harris. The most direct is the ferry from Uig in the north of Skye which takes you straight there in a little under two hours. With more time on your hands you could take a longer sail from Ullapool to Stornoway in Lewis and enjoy a leisurely drive south while you soak up the island’s rugged interior. Alternatively, you could enjoy a longer sail from Oban to Castlebay on Barra then make your way north by road and ferry to Tarbert.
3 Colonsay Gin, Colonsay
Colonsay Gin prides itself in taking inspiration from both its beautiful Hebridean island home and Celtic folklore. It is hand-made in small batches of 160 bottles to a closely guarded secret. In the style of a classic London Dry, this Royal Strength juniper-led gin balances spice, peppery notes and lemon sherbet.
4 Wild Island Botanic Gin, Colonsay
Created by the team at Colonsay Brewery, and working with Langley Distillery, this small batch gin has been inspired by the island’s sweeping Kiloran Bay. The flavours found within this island Gin have been inspired by the island flora and wild botanicals.
5 Tyree Gin, Tiree
Tyree Gin is the second product released by Tiree Whisky Company Ltd. The unique flavour profile is achieved through six locally foraged botanicals, collected from the island’s rich and fertile machair ground. Together with the salty kelp and sea-belt from the wild Atlantic Ocean, Tyree Gin provides ‘the true taste of Tiree’.
6 Misty Isle Gin, Skye
The team behind Skye’s Misty Isle Gin believe in celebrating origin. The flavour profile is a marriage of crystal clear spring waters from the Storr Lochs and the right balance of botanicals, including hand-foraged juniper from various wild locations around Skye.
7 Lussa Gin, Jura
Born in the summer of 2015, Lussa Gin is a community ‘spirit’ that reflects the wild, adventurous landscape of the Isle of Jura. The all-female ‘women in gin’ team grow, gather and distill using local botanicals such as Bog Myrtle, Lemon Balm and Lime Flowers. The result is a full-bodied floral gin with a hint of vegetation, reflecting the rich conditions of the island.
Plan ahead and stay safe
Alcohol and cars don’t mix – so if you’re planning to take your car to the islands, you’ll need to think carefully about how you’re going to get about.
You could go with friends and draw up a rota for nominated drivers. Or you could make use of the local taxi and bus services on the islands. A quick search online will give you a few phone numbers. But one thing to bear in mind is that it is best to contact them in advance. A third and arguably most enjoyable option is to plan ahead to ensure you stay close enough to your chosen distillery so you can enjoy walking through the beautiful island countryside.
To find out more about traveling to Scotland’s west coast islands with CalMac Ferries, visit the official CalMac website.
CalMac Ferries is a client of Gay Star News