The alarm goes off. My wife Ruth and I walk our black Labrador, Tina, either up Ullapool hill or through the village to the harbour. I have a later start at the distillery today so managed to have a breakfast of scrambled eggs, smoked salmon from Ullapool Smokehouse and locally baked sourdough.
Normally I will cycle to the distillery and it is not unusual for me to bump into Helen Chalmers and Robert Hicks (co-founders of the Highland Liquor Company) on my way and have a catch-up as they walk their kids to school.
Lights on in the distillery. Normally there would be a few people in to help, including Robert and Helen, but with social distancing it’s only me. On a distilling day I will have steeped the ingredients overnight before measuring and adding the botanicals and tending our two stills. They’re named after my wife, Ruth, and Robert and Helen’s daughter, Ella. Distilling is a pretty intensive process, it takes two weeks to distill and package each batch of our gin so there’s always work to be done. My favourite part of my job is recipe development, I love experimenting as I feel a bit like a warlock on a quest. We develop a range of local gins for the bottle shop in the village so I’m looking forward to being able to travel and research again in the future.
If I’m distilling for the day I’ll have my packed lunch of sandwiches and soup or I will head home to meet Ruth and chat about our morning. We distill around 600 bottles a week using our unique process. It took over 96 different recipe combinations before we were happy, so it was a real labour of love.
I’m a retained fireman, taking shifts each week where I’m on call and wear a pager so I can be reached in case of an emergency. It also means we have weekly training sessions at the station so it’s a good way to keep active and help out in the community. Last night I took my mountain bike out and met with a friend. He’s in mountain rescue and fit as a fiddle so I hadn’t quite realised this would mean a four hour cycle over the mountains.
Ruth and I take turns cooking as we both enjoy it, last night was our ‘campside classic’ - a sausage casserole with couscous, chopped tomatoes and whatever variations of veg and spices we fancy. We do quite a bit of camping and it’s a favourite meal to prepare outdoors as it is quick and doesn’t use too much gas.
As we can’t meet up with pals in the pub at the moment, it’s Netflix at home. I give Tina a snack and her last garden visit before bed.
Seven Crofts, £40 for 70cl, is a small batch dry gin with seven botanicals, including juniper, coriander and angelica, by the Highland Liquor Company. It’s available online at www.highlandliquorcompany.com as well as in selected specialist retailers and bars.