Winners of Highlands and Islands Food & Drink Awards showcase local Scottish talent
Before we’re completely enveloped by the festive season, some of the best and brightest in our food and drink industry will be celebrated at a host of annual awards.
The end of last month saw the Highlands and Islands Food & Drink Awards 2023, which celebrated the talent, quality and diversity across food, drink and hospitality in the region. With a total of 15 award categories recognising a range of diverse businesses from best products to food and drink experiences and outstanding retailers, the winners represent the cream of the crop.
They ranged from a standout restaurant in Nairn, the Sun Dancer, which was named restaurant of the year – huge congrats to Niall Anderson, the duty manager and my university pal – and North Uist Distillery, which won best drink for their Downpour Scottish Dry Gin. Lochcarron Food Centre in Lochaber and a cheesemaker on Mull were also among the list of winners demonstrating the quality of food across the region.
Other winners included organisations as large as Shetland Island Council and as small as Inverness street food operator Tagliotello. They also include best start-up, which was awarded to The Islay Spirits Company for its transformation of the old lemonade factory on Islay to a distillery, and a sustainability award that went to Windswept Brewing Co, from Lossiemouth.
For those partial to a gin and tonic, you’ll be glad to know the winners of the Scottish Gin Awards were announced last week. The seventh awards ceremony celebrated excellence in Scottish gin with awards in both business and taste categories.
The ultimate award, Scottish Gin Distillery of the Year, was presented for a second year in a row to North Uist Distillery from the Outer Hebrides. Fresh from the win from the Highlands and Islands awards, the team also collected the award for Best New Product of the Year for their Downpour Coast & Croft Gin. In the highly sought-after taste competition, 11 gold medals were presented, with Edinburgh Gin collecting two. Beinn an Tuirc Distillers, South Loch Gin and Linlithgow Distillery also won multiple taste medals.
This month also marks the Scottish Whisky Award winners being announced on St Andrew’s Day on November 30, with all of these hot off the heels of the ‘50 Best’ list, Good Pub Guide and the Scotland Food and Drink Excellence Awards in the late summer. We, of course, kicked the year off in style with our first Scran awards in March.
These events not only celebrate the diverse range of food and drink being made in Scotland, but also the hospitality scene and everyone who works hard with real passion and enthusiasm for the sector.
It is a sector worth an estimated £16 billion to the Scottish economy. So while it’s easy to get caught up in the race to Christmas, or hunker down and avoid the (inevitable) rain, it’s important that we take time to raise a glass to these dedicated producers, as the year comes to a close.
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