Fortune favours the bold
A visit to the tiny start-up North Uist Distillery Co.
The Outer Hebrides is a beautiful and dramatic place like no other you will ever visit. Made up of a long string of islands stretching over 100 miles far out in the Atlantic, off the west coast of Scotland. It is a place of unspoilt wilderness, white beaches, fertile grasslands of wildflowers (known as ‘machair’) and where ancient history and a traditional way of life collide with forward thinking.
In the middle of the chain, lies the breathtaking island of North Uist, a landscape of fresh and salt water lochs, edged by miles of white sandy beaches, and cultivated crofts. It is here you will find North Uist Distillery and its owners, North Uist natives Kate and Jonny, who recently returned to follow their dream to become the first ever whisky distillery on the island. They are a passionate and gutsy young couple who are proud to promote a new generation of crofting – providing reasons for people to grow the islands fabled native grain, the organic bere barley intended for their flagship single malt whisky.
A new distillery
You will find Kate six days a week in their newly opened shop and tasting room at Nunton Steading on the adjacent island of Benbecula (closed Sunday’s as per tradition in the Outer Hebrides). They have ambitious plans to turn the beautiful cobble-stoned, u‑shaped building, steeped in history, into bang up-to-date whisky maturation rooms and a visitor centre. Jonny, the Master Distiller, has a distilling and brewing background and is the brains behind the production of fine craft spirits.
The spirit of Hebridean life
Three years into their endeavour, Kate and Jonny and their small but growing team of four permanent employees have created an impressive line-up of award-winning spirits. Their artisan Downpour Gin is handmade in small batches and promises to capture the spirit of Hebridean island life with its bold flavours. Indeed, every batch is distilled using botanicals such as wild heather, which is crowd-sourced by islanders in return for the first bottle of every batch. The bottles are individually numbered and labelled with the place names where the heather was painstakingly foraged.
Downpour Craft Gin 70cl £38
Award-winning (silver medal at the International Wines and Spirits Competition), this gin is bursting with citrus, spice and a punch of wild Hebridean heather. To serve, add a fresh sprig of Rosemary or, if you have it, Scottish heather.
Downpour Pink Grapefruit Gin 50cl £29
Big, zesty pink grapefruit in the face and warming pink peppercorn! For a fruity twist, serve mixed with blood orange soda and a slice of pink grapefruit. Exquisite!
Sloe & Bramble Cask Aged Gin 50cl £29
Award-winning craft sloe gin (silver medal at the International Wines and Spirits Competition), made from sloe berries and Uist wild brambles before being aged in old bourbon casks to create a complex rich, fruity flavour.
Downpour Negroni Cocktail 50cl £29
Oak-aged Downpour Gin infused with vermouth and amaro. A bold cocktail of sweet and bitter flavours. No need for a Mixologist as its pre-mixed and once chilled is ready to drink, poured over ice.
If fortune favours the bold then this is surely one tiny but mighty craft distillery to watch. Products only available directly from their website www.northuistdistillery.com, with free delivery from the distillery on North Uist.