Introducing: The Hearach, A Single Malt from The Isle of Harris

© Isle of Harris Distillery Ltd.

 

The Hearach is the first, historic single malt whisky from the Isle of Harris, as the distilling traditions lost during the Pabbay clearances of the 1840s have been revived.

Every drop of this new dram is being distilled by local people to produce a special spirit which has been matured, married, and bottled here in this elemental place, and nowhere else.

The Hearach is bottled at 46% abv, non-chill filtered, and free from artificial colouring.

The water sourced from Abhainn Cnoc a’ Charrain is one of the softest of any Scottish distillery. Only very low sodium and chlorine minerals are measured, likely derived from the sea spray that blows over the village isthmus.

The rivers and streams of north Harris flow over Lewisian gneiss, some of the oldest rocks on earth, dated by radiometric techniques at between 2.4 billion and 2.6 billion years old. Its hardness helps ensure the extremely low minerality of the distilleries source water.

After longer fermentations and hands-on distillation in bespoke copper stills, the oak casks, chosen when visiting Kentucky and Spain, are brought to bear. The chaos in the casks then ensues by the shores of the Atlantic, near the west-coast village of Ardhasaig looking towards the Clisham, the highest mountain in the Outer Hebrides.

Despite the northerly latitude, the island’s oceanic climate benefits from the currents of the Gulf Stream. This system keeps seasonal temperatures remain remarkably stable, which benefits the maturation process.

‚ÄúThe final, hard to define, element of our whisky making is our natural way of working which¬†brings patience to what we do, from fermentation to marrying. Ours is¬†a slow whisky¬†and we look forward to sharing it at a different pace.‚ÄĚ

© Isle of Harris Distillery Ltd.

 

As mentioned, the distillers and blenders are all drawn from the local community and have been trained from scratch in the craft and science of spirit-making. This is one of the youngest teams of distillers in Scotland with an average age of 25 years with the youngest РRebekah Morrison from the village of Bowglass Рbeing 21 years old.

Some key facts about the whisky they make…

Technical information:

  • Bottled at 46% abv
  • Non-chill filtered and no artificial colourings
  • Released in batches of around 12,000 bottles
  • Each batch is ‘married’ for a minimum of 12 weeks
  • The youngest spirit in each batch is 5 years old
  • Matured in first-fill ex-Bourbon casks, Oloroso and Fino butts
  • Lightly peated (12-15 ppm)

Distilled and bottled at the Isle of Harris Distillery, Tarbert, Isle of Harris.

  • 1st-fill Heaven Hill casks (21%) + 1st-fill Buffalo Trace casks (64%) + 1st-fill Oloroso butts (11%) + 1st-fill Fino butts (4%)
  • 100% Scottish Concerto barley
  • Lallemand DistilaMax MV yeast
  • Water sourced from¬†Abhainn Cnoc a’ Charrain, Tarbert, Isle of Harris.
  • Fermentation times of 40% Medium (70 hours) + 60% Long (120 hours)
  • 8000L Oregon Pine washbacks
  • 5000L Spirit still (Eva)
  • 7000L Wash still
  • Matured and married in Ardhasaig, Isle of Harris.

Personal note: I have been visiting Harris, a jewel in the Outer Hebrides, for over forty years. I’ve witnessed the decline of fishing and crofting, the flirtation with salmon farming, the renaissance of the Harris Tweed industry and how tourism has taken over as the number one employer. The island is not deficient in beautiful soft water, mists rolling in from the Atlantic, and peat. I have tasted the Hearach on a few occasions and can say that each bottling is distinctive. Without resorting to whimsical tasting notes, I can say that, whether by nature, judgement, or luck, that this single malt whisky captures the spirit (and the spirit) of Harris.

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