How Barra gin embodies Scottish island’s wild spirit

Described as rich in maritime notes, mentholic lean and a pinch of salty air, the bold flavour of the first gin made on the island of Barra encapsulates the very essence of its wild Western Isles origins.

Native carrageen seaweed, hand-picked from the remote island’s rugged shores after spring tides and left outside to dry naturally in the sun and wind, is the main botanical in the spirit.

This is complemented with a hint of wild heather, which also grows in abundance on Barra and is collected as and when required, and another 15 botanicals.

The unique gin is created by Michael and Katie Morrison, the husband-and-wife team behind Isle of Barra Distillers – the most westerly distillery in Scotland.

Barra Atlantic Gin is hand-crafted on the Hebridean island with sustainability at its core

“The adventurous spirit of Barra people inspires our unique gin,” said Mr Morrison.

“It showcases a perfect balance of floral and herbal on the nose, leading to juniper, citrus and dulcet carrageen rolling across the tongue like the mighty Atlantic surf breaking on Barra shores.

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“Refreshing and clean, with a long, gratifyingly warm spice finish that opens out like the vast vista surrounding our beautifully remote home.”

The gin has a complicated and weather-dependent journey from the remote Isle of Barra, via five other islands, to reach customers on the mainland and further afield

The pair have put sustainability at the forefront of everything they do, from taking care over how intensively ingredients are foraged to the ways in which they create, bottle, package and ship their spirits.

After producing their first batch of Barra Atlantic Gin in a bespoke copper still named Ava in 2017, the company has been going from strength to strength ever since and has big plans for expansion.

“Our brand and company ethos has shifted its focus on becoming more sustainable and eco-friendly,” Mr Morrison said.

“Whilst this has been at the forefront of our current production and product choices, we have been working on a range of highly important matters behind the scenes to carefully transition entirely as a company in a more sustainable manner.”

He added: “The riches on our doorstep are endless and have cause to create unique opportunities.

“It is our responsibility to sustain these ingredients whilst utilising their benefits and flavours to make our gin.”

All packaging is plastic-free, made of cardboard and paper, meaning it can be disposed of in household recycling bins.

The glass bottles are also fully recyclable.

A minimal amount of machinery is in operation at the distillery, while all orders are packed by hand.

The Morrisons have also attempted to limit the carbon footprint of the complicated and sometimes challenging journey involved in shipping bottles to customers on the mainland and further afield.

This involves transport via road, sea and air and is weather-dependent, with shipments passing through five other Scottish islands before even reaching the sorting office in the Highland capital of Inverness.

“We are utilising existing methods of public transport links to have our mail travel to the mainland and beyond,” Mr Morrison said.

“When there are cancellations to ferry and flights due to poor weather our mail gets backed up along the way.

“It doesn't happen often, but sometimes it does.

“It is simply one of the factors we need to take into consideration when living on the edge of the Atlantic.”

The firm has grand plans for the future, adding single malt whisky to their repertoire.

The team is working to build a £5 million state-of-the-art distillery and visitor centre that will allow them to scale-up production and provide around 30 jobs for locals.

Mr Morrison said: “Our team may be small, but we all work passionately to build and strengthen the Isle of Barra Distillers together.

“A company so close to our hearts and our Island home is the major drive behind the Isle of Barra Distillers’ continuous success.”

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