The Island of Barra is Scotland’s most westerly island facing the Atlantic Ocean and home to the isle’s first distillery; Isle of Barra Distillers. The weather, the storms, the sun and the sea all influence the natural surroundings, leaving the landscape rich in unique natural minerals and botanicals, directly contributing to the taste and flavours of Isle of Barra Distillers’ inaugural spirit, Barra Atlantic Gin. From the outset, Isle of Barra Distillers looked to capture the special essence of the beautiful island and bottle it so it can be shared between friends and family.
The Isle of Barra Distillery was founded by husband-and-wife duo, Michael and Katie Morrison, with a unique mission; establishing a sustainable business platform to not only create premium, small-batch gin and whisky but also to create jobs, reinvigorate life on the island for current and future generations and create a circular economy to the best of their ability. For the founders, it’s not just another distillery; it is their way of honouring their heritage, their homeland and the isle of their childhood.
Barra Atlantic Gin – Island Born, Fearless Spirit Launched in 2017, award-winning Barra Atlantic Gin is distilled from 17 handpicked botanicals. Born from the island, every drop is distilled, bottled and labelled on the Isle of Barra.
Barra Atlantic’s main botanical is carrageen seaweed, collected wild, and sustainably, from the shores surrounding the island, creating a pleasing, bold flavour and rich in maritime notes, with a huge, mentholic lean and a pinch of salty air.
Juniper dominates proceedings; it’s dry and rich, flanked by the carrageen and strong enough to paint the air a vibrant, herbal green. A spice nip kicks in, but liquorice roots start to slightly weigh the tongue down towards the end of the sip, adding a sweet viscosity that invokes flavours of saltwater taffy. Refreshing and clean, with a long, gratifyingly warm spice finish that opens out like the vast vista surrounding the remote island.
The idea for using the carrageen came from the abundance around the island, as well as from Michael’s childhood, where the seaweed was used frequently in home cooking, as well as the additional elements it brings to the spirit. The carrageen grows out of the ancient rocks that make up the island and alongside being full of flavour and minerals, has medicinal properties.
When distilling the gin, it is important for the distillers to discard the heads and tails from the distillate. The vast majority of gin reuse the heads and tales, but although more costly, Michael, Katie and their team feel that the end result just isn’t as crisp, smooth or premium.
The marble print branding on the bottle is sustainably created from the very same carrageen seaweed used to infuse the gin. Once it is dried, the carrageen is powdered up and mixed in a large tub filled with oils, colour and water. The carrageen helps thicken up the oil and as the original sheet sits on top of the mixed colours, the oil then floats to the top leaving the enchanting marble effect.
Isle of Barra Distillers’ commitment to sustainability is at the forefront of everything they do; from being mindful of the sustainable way they forage, to how they create, bottle, package and ship their spirits. The distillery’s definition of sustainability is meeting their own needs, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.
Creating employment and making a difference is a key part of their vision. There are very
limited opportunities for employment on Barra and in many cases, locals need to have two or maybe three jobs to make enough money as most jobs on the island are low paid. Isle of Barra Distillers are bucking the trend as employers, paying each employee a fair and honest wage and that is the structure they have built and will continue to build the company on.
Isle of Barra Distillers Foundation
The biggest project the team is working on in terms of creating an impact on the island is the creation of the Isle of Barra Distillers Foundation where they have pledged to donate 1% of their net profits back into the community. The aim is that the community will put ideas to the distillery team, and they will cast a vote on what and where the money should be spent. So, for example, if they have £25,000 that year to spend, that could go towards a new children’s play park or cleaning up marine areas in need.
The biggest goal for the foundation within the 10-year plan is to build a set of affordable homes that they can sell to young families at a cost price. The platform the Isle of Barra & also the Isle of Barra Distillers has given Michael and Katie Morrison to make a difference is massive and that is so important to them to be able to give back to their island home.
Barra Atlantic Gin is available now at Isleofbarradistillers.com; RRP: £37