Tarbert Distillery to open soon

Tarbert Distillery for Isle of Harris

Tarbert Distillery

Luskentyre Beach Harris

An Isle of Harris Distillery is planned to start construction later this year and with the creation of 20 new jobs can only be a boost to the Islands economy.

Government Grant

This good news followed the announcement by the Scottish Government of a £1.9 million grant to fund up to a third of the total building costs of the new project, and is the lion’s share of a total £2.4 million that has been allocate to several industries, including Findlater’s Fine Foods, Linlithgow; Sandyford Abattoir, Paisley; Struan Apiaries, Conon Bridge, near Dingwall and TM Fresh Direct, Carfin. As reported by the Scotsman

The Isle of Harris Distillery has been in the planning for a while and is to be built on reclaimed land. The whole project would consist of the distillery itself, a warehouse and a car park. It is not clear yet whether or not a visitors centre is planned but I would be very surprised if a project of this size did not have one. Water will be drawn from two disused reservoirs on the East Tarbert Burn

Production Start

It is expected that up to 90,000 litres a year will be produced and the aim is for the quality market. Watch this space! Production is expected to begin sometime in 2015. With the 3 years required to actually call your drink whisky then in theory we could be trying the first dram as early as 2018 but I am sure that most of us will want to wait a while for something a bit longer in barrel.

Whisky Making in the Islands

The history of whisky making in the Outer Isles is a bit chequered with the major landowner (James Matheson from 1844) banning all distilling and closing the only existing, Shoeburn, distillery. This is ironic because it is asserted that James Matheson made his fortune selling opium to the Chinese.

The first legal distillery to open in recent years is the Abhainn Dearg distillery at Uig on the Isle of Lewis (not far from the impressive beach)

Abhainn Dearg

Uig Beach

This however is a much smaller affair than the Tarbert distillery. It consists of a few brick built and tin roofed buildings in a pretty isolated corner of the Island.

There is no visitor centre as such but visitors are welcome and you can now buy the finished product. When we dropped in in 2011 only the “Spirit of Lewis” was available, the basic spirit that of course could not be called whisky. We enjoyed this as something we had not tried before, but look forward to a nip of the real thing.

The distillery took a bit of work to get a licence, not helped by the fact that it uses a former illegal still from  North Uist!

Off on a complete tangent if any of you have read the Lewis Trilogy by Peter May then a lot of the action in the final book The Chessmen is set around the Uig area.

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18 Responses to Tarbert Distillery to open soon

  1. Zach says:

    Pretty cool, I have always wanted to check out a distillery!

    • Roger Shann says:

      Thanks Zach, We have visited a few. Abheinn Dearg has to be the smallest though. Talisker on Skye is huge in comparison

  2. Jim says:

    Interesting article Roger. If the tax on liquor is anything there like it is here in Canada the government’s contribution will be rapidly paid out and provide it with a pretty nice stream of income.

  3. John Stewart says:

    I’ve never been to a distillery but a nip from where they make it would be nice

    • Roger Shann says:

      It certainly is, but ironically the prices in the visitor centres are usually more than those in the shops!

      • Brett says:

        Isn’t that just typical? Whether it’s a distillery, Napa vineyard, or an art museum gift shop, they act like concessionaires at movie theaters. While sub-retail pricing would be a great incentive to draw people to the place for a visit, most of the time, it feels like they’re trying to offset the extra cost of staffing the tours.

        • Roger Shann says:

          Thanks for your comment Brett. Sometimes you get a little something that is usually the cost of the tour but they are still often pricier than the shops. Examply Talisker in Portree Co-op was £24.99 one year but £32 in the distillery shop.

  4. Tim Bashista says:

    It seems to be good all around as folks get work and the world gets a fine distillery, win win….:)

  5. Pat McConaha says:

    That’s some cool history there. I do love a good whiskey! Yeah, let’s leave it in the barrel for a good 6-7 years. My great, great grandfather used to make moonshine near Stillwater, Oklahoma, so I have some alcohol history in my family…lol

    • Roger Shann says:

      Just finished reading a book by Ian Banks called “The Perfect Dram” a bit of travelogue, a bit of his life story and a lot about whisky. He tried to find a moonshine distillery in Scotland but had no success, although he is sure that there must be one out there somewhere.

  6. Out of curiosity, have you ever tried Kavalan whiskey? It is made in Taiwan but managed to win number 3 whiskey in the world award in its 3rd or 4th year, quite impressive..don’t tell the Scots

  7. Lisa Marie says:

    I went on a crazy bus tour of the lochs beginning with a visit to a distillery for samples. We all enjoyed them even though it was 830 in the morning. The added spirits afforded us Nessy finding assistance.

    • Roger Shann says:

      I think the bus idea is great. Too often I have had to drive so sampling is pretty limited to a smell and a touch of the tongue. Norah gets to finish off what I leave.

      Thanks Lisa Marie

  8. Colm says:

    This sounds great Roger, especially if it will create employment and help the local economy.

    I’ll never forget visiting the Bushmills distillery in Antrim in Ireland. I remember going into the keg room and it was just awesome. The guide pointed at some kegs at the back and said that they were original kegs from when the place first opened centuries back and that they were priceless! Very interesting tour and there was a nice wee dram at the end!

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