Harris gin is the award winning inaugral spirit from the Isle of Harris distillery in Tarbert in the Outer Hebridies.
Price: ~ £37 direct
Bitter Orange Peel
Cubeb / Javan Pepper
I was given this bottle as a birthday gift I think possibly 2 years ago (it is to my shame that I’ve hardly touched it and is not a comment on the quality of the contents, quite the opposite in fact, and a testament to my foolish mindset of never using the things I love for fear they will one day run out!). My friends, having visited the distillery, loved it and subsequently decided to get me a bottle, but had a bit of an ordeal doing so! It has sat on my top shelf in pride of place ever since.
Made in a small copper still known as ‘The Dottach’ after local woman, the distillery is a rather social affair, opening its doors to the public six days a week with the aim of reflecting the hospitality and sense of community of the people of the isle. The sugar kelp used as the key botanical is hand harvested by a local diver.
Do I need to write anything here? Really?
Esse quam videri “to be rather than to seem”, is the motto embossed on the bottom of the bottle. Perhaps this is their way of saying that this gin isn’t just a pretty bottle. And it is, arguably, the most attractive bottle on the market.
The shape and subtle colouring of the bottle, the contours and ripples, the short, wride lipped neck and beautiful wooden stopper, the label, flecked with copper leaf and sugar kelp so that no two are the same, the slight, smooth indentations to allow you to hold the bottle more easily…
There is no doubt, upon first raising the glass, that this is a gin. Warming juniper drifts up along with those classic botanicals, the angelica, cassia and coriander, as well as an alcoholic heat that warns not to breathe too deelpy. The orange is there too, adding depth along with the liquorice. It smells like a very classic gin, but surprisingly warm and spicy when everything up to popping the stopper may lead you to believe there’s going to be a tang of saltiness from the kelp. It smells absolutely divine.
Neat, everything on the nose comes through, but this time, unmistakably, the kelp is there with a sweet, salty tang that works woderfully with the juniper, creating a waxy, leathery, sweet/salty pine flavour. It’s more bitter than it smells, fresher with less orange and spice, but those flavours are there. There’s a surprising amout of fruitiness to it actually, and a peppery kick at the end along with a fairly strong, but not unpleasant burn from the alcohol.
With water, the smells blossom into more herbal tones, with the coriander and orris coming through much more. The tang of the kelp is softened and the flavour itself relaxes into a very pleasant fresh leafiness, blending nicely with the bitter orange which comes through towards the end. The whole thing is more mellow and seems much closer to how it is meant to be enjoyed.
Finally, I tried it in a G&T (3:1 Franklin & Sons Indian Tonic) with a wedge of lemon (as I don’t have the recommended red grapefruit). It’s a wonderfully refreshing drink, though I must say the saltiness is quite remarkable! It is definitely not your average G&T, at least not for me, and is on the bitter, dry side for sure. The saltiness could take it either way for some I think.
I really like this gin a lot, even though it’s not got the flavour profile I most enjoy. The quality is unquestionable, and definitely does the bottle justice, but I can see the salty tang of the kelp not appealing to everyone’s tastes. There’re plenty of other flavours in there to appreciate, but I did find it quite prominent with the tonic. Still it’s a superb gin, no doubt.
I am awarding it an extra half feather on the basis of the bottle alone, however I am also deducting a half because it’s just not easy enough to get hold of in my opinion!
Remove half a feather if you’re no fan of ‘coastal’ flavours in your gin. Add half if you are!
Harris gin is available online at select stores for way too much, or direct from the distillery.
All reviews are of the author’s personal collection, bought and paid for by the author, unless otherwise stated.