What did you do before starting Isle of Skye Distillers?
We were raised on Skye and it is the place that we hold closest to our hearts. During our careers we have both left Skye and have found ourselves in various different locations.
Alistair: I have a background in the hospitality industry and have been a manager in various bars and restaurants across Glasgow. It is fair to say that I am very used to customer and taste expectations!
Thomas: I have been a local builder and worked for the Highland and Islands Council. I am also a member of the British Army and have served in the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment (1 PARA). I have completed multiple tours and have worked as a Private Military Contractor in Afghanistan. Today, I still serve with the 4th Battalion, Parachute Regiment (4PARA).
Although we have both been away, Skye is a place that we hold close to our hearts and are happy to be back home, on the island distilling our gin and sharing our passion with others.
What made you decide to create your own distillery and what's the inspiration behind the gin?
Skye is our home and is a place that we are passionate about promoting to a wider audience.
Thomas: The idea started when Alistair received a home compounding gin kit in 2014 as a secret Santa gift, which started the thought behind Misty Isle Gin.
Alistair: After that, lots and lots of research and planning happened through 2015 with most of it taking place in Thomas’ kitchen. After being granted planning permission, the construction of the distillery started in September 2016. The first batch of Misty Isle Gin was distilled on 22nd January 2017 and then launched on Valentines Day 2017.
In creating Misty Isle Gin, we took inspiration from our local landscape; in particular the Old Man of Storr and the Cuillin Mountain Range. We wanted to create a gin that embraced the spirit of Skye.
Can you tell us more about the distillery and distillation process and botanicals?
We built our craft distillery in the back garden of our family home where we were both raised. The high school we went to is right behind us. All our Misty Isle spirits are distilled in Portree with a marriage of waters from the Storr Lochs and the right balance of the finest botanicals. We run four hand-made copper pot stills and bottle at around 100 at a time, before labelling by hand.
We locally forage for juniper from various locations across Skye and use home-grown ingredients where possible, including things like blaeberry and angelica root. We have planted 24 new juniper trees to help with the demand. One special botanical is kept a secret, but it can only be found at high altitudes on the island.
What can visitors to your Island Gin School and Shop experience?
Although our distillery is not open for tours, we do have our Island Gin School and Shop in the centre of Portree. Here you can find our whole range of Misty Isle Spirits as well as various other Scottish Gins.
Our gin school runs on a Wednesday and Friday afternoon and you can join Alistair as he guides you through a three-hour tutored and interactive gin making experience. This is a very relaxed and hands on experience where you can pick out your personal choice of botanicals and run your own miniature copper pot still to create a unique gin of your very own. It is a great afternoon and of course there is the opportunity to taste some Misty Isle gins!
What have been the biggest challenges and achievements so far?
We are very proud of the fact that we have created the first gin distilled on the Isle of Skye. To date, we have had a fair few memorable moments. It is always a proud moment when we are awarded various different awards for our gins, including being named 'Best in Scotland' and being a Winner in the Contemporary Gin category of The Gin Guide Awards 2021.
Julie Walters making gin in our distillery on World Gin Day, seeing our bottle on the bar in the TV show the ‘Reluctant Landlord’, and causing political controversy when Nicola Sturgeon gave Theresa May a bottle of our gin at Christmas (we are not political by the way!) are some memorable moments to name a few. Our biggest achievement has been creating a spirit we are proud to call our own and building something that we can pass on to our family. That is our ultimate goal.
What is your favourite way to drink your gins?
Usually in a G&T. We like to use Walter Gregor’s tonic. We also like a cocktail and usually we would have our Misty Isle Gin in a Negroni. Our Tommy’s Gin works well in a Martini. A Vesper Martini using our vodka is great. (We also have distilled the first vodka on the Isle of Skye alongside our gins).
How would you describe Misty Isle Gin in 3 words?
Juniper, Fresh, Smooth.
What gins would you have on your gin shelf (other than yours of course!)?
Rock Rose Original Gin is a favourite as well as the Swiss Gin Nginious!
What's next Isle of Skye Distillers and Misty Isle Gin - any exciting plans?
The past year has been very busy and we have introduced ‘Cill Targhlain’ our newest London Dry Style gin to our core range. Prior to the 16th century, the village of Portree was originally known as ‘Kiltaraglen’ or ‘Cill Targhlain’ in Gaelic and this is where we drew inspiration for the name. Like all our gins we use local botanicals, and in this edition, we use sea orache from the shores of Loch Portree.
For now, you will have to watch this space. We have some exciting things happening in the background at the moment and we can’t wait to share them will you all in the near future!
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